Energy bill puts wind in SouthCoast’s sails


By Mike Lawrence

August 08. 2016 6:15PM

BOSTON — State Rep. Patricia Haddad said representatives from GE, Siemens and Vestas — a Danish wind turbine giant — all approached her Monday on the State House lawn, where a festive feeling took hold as Gov. Charlie Baker signed a landmark energy bill that could launch an offshore wind industry in Massachusetts.

Local backers of an effort to use New Bedford’s massive new marine terminal as a staging area for those turbines hope big industry players will now come to the city.

Haddad said the energy companies’ presence at the bill signing was notable, and pointed toward the real work that lies ahead.

“Now we have to convince them that this opportunity exists on the SouthCoast,” she said.

Haddad, a Somerset Democrat who has helped lead a regional push for offshore wind legislation over the past two years, was one of several area representatives at the ceremony, which Baker moved from the State House’s grand staircase to a sunny outdoor setting that fit the bill’s focus on fueling renewable power development in years ahead.

“We’ve been working on offshore wind development for a long time, and this legislation is the last really big piece,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, who attended the signing ceremony.

Mitchell shook Baker’s hand afterward, saying, “Thank you — this is big for us.”

Mitchell said New Bedford is poised to benefit from offshore wind development, potentially at the $113 million, state-funded Marine Commerce Terminal just inside the hurricane barrier.

“We have geographic advantages, the right infrastructure, and a qualified workforce — what we need is government support to get this industry off the ground, and that’s what this bill provides,” Mitchell said.

The bill’s offshore wind component requires utilities to buy long-term contracts for at least 1,600 MW of the turbine-fueled power source, between 2017 and 2027.

State and national environmental groups praised the legislation, which marks the largest-ever commitment to offshore wind by any state in the country.

“Gov. Baker and Massachusetts’ Legislature deserve a gold medal for shifting our clean energy transition into high gear. The commonwealth now takes the world stage with the largest offshore wind market in America, committing to an energy future with less pollution and thousands of new, high quality local jobs,” said Catherine Bowes, the National Wildlife Federation’s senior manager for climate and energy. “Massachusetts will now attract the investment of the booming global offshore wind industry, ready to put the commonwealth to work while stabilizing electric rates and protecting our communities and wildlife from climate change.”

The federation joined Mass Audobon, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environment Massachusetts and other like-minded groups on a thank-you letter presented to Baker on Monday.

Three deep-pocketed developers have leased ocean waters south of Martha’s Vineyard, for future turbine projects off Massachusetts or Rhode Island. Principals of all three developers attended Monday’s ceremony, and could compete for contracts in coming months.

“It’s a huge and historic day for the commonwealth and the industry,” said Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski, whose Rhode Island company has installed two of five turbines going up in waters off Block Island.

Grybowski said he expects to submit bids for utility contracts off Massachusetts next summer, after the Baker administration works with utilities to prepare requests for proposals in coming months.

“We obviously all have a lot of work to do now,” Grybowski said.

OffshoreMW Executive Vice President Erich Stephens said his New Jersey-based company will start conducting geological surveys in its lease area Sept. 1.

Thomas Brostrom, general manager of Denmark-based DONG Energy — known in Massachusetts as Bay State Wind — posed for photos with Baker and others after the bill-signing. Bay State Wind recently filed an 800-MW connection request with power grid operator ISO New England, seeking to use the retiring Brayton Point coal plant site as a connection point for wind power from offshore turbines.

Haddad said Monday that Bay State’s request has “huge significance” for the region.

“It says to people, ‘this is real,’” she said. “They’re asking for space on the grid.”

Baker said the work of SouthCoast legislators to get an offshore wind requirement on the books “should not go unnoticed,” crediting Haddad and several elected officials.

“The delegation spoke with one voice, and was very consistent in its message about the importance of the commonwealth incorporating an offshore wind strategy, along with its onshore wind strategy, its solar strategy and its hydro strategy going forward,” he said. “And I think this legislation, in many respects, is a real tribute to the work that was done by the delegation.

“We, now, as an administration have some real heavy lifting to do, to translate this aspiration into a reality,” Baker added. “I fully expect that we’ll continue to spend a lot of time talking with the delegation about that as we go forward.”

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