Posted Nov 3, 2019 at 10:49 AM
BUZZARDS BAY — With the pop of a champagne bottle, a new offshore wind training facility officially opened for business off the docks of Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
State officials gathered at the Taylors Point campus late last month to launch the facility, which will train workers including welders, divers and electricians, as well as academy cadets, how to work on future offshore wind projects.
State and academy officials called the facility the first of its kind in the nation.
“This is the start of something that is going to be very, very big,” Gov. Charlie Baker said. “It will ultimately affect job opportunities, not just here in Massachusetts, but in New England and all the way down the coast.”
It is expected that 250 to 300 people will be trained through the facility each year, according to Paul O’Keefe, vice president of operations at the maritime academy.
Located at the end of a pier at the edge of the campus, the training platform uses the same types of rails and ladders that would be found on a real turbine, O’Keefe said. A 64-foot Carolina Skiff has been modified to simulate work crew transfer to the craft, he said.
“In other countries you see just a swimming pool inside a building,” O’Keefe said. “We are trying to simulate the real thing.”
The training facility will follow the standards set by the Global Wind Organization, which is made up of industry stakeholders who set the training requirements.
Workers being trained through the facility will first undergo basic safety training. The six-day course will focus on first aid, manual handling, fire awareness, working at great heights and sea survival, O’Keefe said.
The heights portion of the course will take place in the academy’s newly constructed indoor climbing facility, and a sea survival course will take place at the crew transfer training facility at the end of the pier.
The academy has partnered with Relyon Nutec, the world’s largest provider of Global Wind Organization training, to help train instructors.
“This package we are doing here, we’re talking about jobs, energy and zero emissions — that sounds like a no-brainer,” the academy’s president, Rear Adm. Francis MacDonald, said. “But for some reason it has taken us a long time to get there in this commonwealth.”
The academy received more than $1.73 million in grants from the Baker-Polito administration and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center in support of the training facility and basic safety program.
The training facility will help increase the workforce for the offshore wind industry. That includes those who will work on the construction and operation of Vineyard Wind’s 800-megawatt project planned for 15 miles off the coast of Massachusetts.
A study from the Clean Energy Center estimates that in the next decade, offshore wind farms will create 2,000 to 3,000 jobs and generate as much as $2 billion in the region.
But Stephen Pike, CEO of the Clean Energy Center, said “finding the right folks” to work on offshore wind projects is still one big challenge facing companies in the industry.
“It is a brand new industry in the U.S.,” Pike said. “Essentially no one is qualified to do the work that these companies need done.”
The state has to do a better job at connecting businesses to workers and those workers to training resources, Pike said. That way, it will create a pipeline of workers, he said.
In explaining the vision for the new training facility, U.S. Rep. William Keating, D-Mass., quoted an iconic line from the movie “Field of Dreams.”
“Build it and they will come,” he said. “That’s what this is all about.”
Keating believes there is potential for the state and the country to take a leadership role in offshore wind. But to do that, a greater investment must be made both in-state and nationally in the blue economy, he said.
During the next 30 years, the blue economy will be growing twice as fast as the global economy, Keating said. To tap into that now, he said, there has to be infrastructure in the ground, such as the new training facility.
“If we don’t have trained personnel for those jobs we are just not going to be successful,” Keating said.
Providing the tools to create more offshore wind jobs also will help fight climate change while providing well-paying jobs and preserving the ocean, Keating said.
“Let’s go forward,” he said.
Original story here.