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Offshore wind transforming English manufacturing cities

The Port of Hull, England, hosts a new Siemens turbine blade manufacturing center. Shown here are 30-story turbine towers ready for deployment, along with nacelles, which weigh 412 tons.

Less than a decade ago, the offshore wind industry was a tantalizing dream in the Humber Region of England, a three-hour train ride north of London.

Today, the region is the hub of a booming offshore wind sector that represents more than 7 billion pounds of investment, thousands of jobs and opportunity for hundreds of local small businesses.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, EDC Chairman Anthony Sapienza and Wind Energy Center Director Paul Vigeant led a trade mission to the Humber Region last week to get a first hand view of how the industry is transforming once-struggling cities along the Hull River Estuary.

The cities of Hull and Grimsby, which are part of the Humber region, were like New Bedford in many ways. Hull, a city of about 250,000, had been the whaling capital of the United Kingdom. Grimsby, with 95,000 inhabitants, was the center of the nation’s commercial fishing industry until Iceland extended its claim over the cod fishery out to 200 miles, essentially excluding Britain’s fishermen from fishing in the best waters for cod.

Both communities had been economically stagnant and felt forgotten by more thriving parts of the country until the offshore wind industry began to stir, thanks in part to government policies encouraging renewable wind to complement the UK’s oil and natural gas industries, centered near Aberdeen.

Today, the Humber Region is the focus of England’s growing offshore wind industry, which leads the world in offshore wind power production, as well as in plans for new wind farms. A new Siemens blade manufacturing facility in Hull already has 800 workers and will will employ a total of about 1,000 by year end. Grimsby, where Dong and E.On have significant presences, has become has become the center of operation and maintenance for offshore wind farms, creating 400 jobs, with an estimated 1,100 by 2025.

The region has drawn more than $9 billion dollars, at the current exchange rate, in offshore wind-related investments, with Grimsby alone seeing $38.7 million over the past three years.

With the UK legally bound to supply 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, the total offshore wind investment is only expected to rise. Nationwide, the sector is expected to bring upwards of $142 billion in investments by 2023.

This has already provided opportunity for Humber Region companies within the supply chain, some of which have been started by former fishermen who now provide specialized help and trained employees for the

Mark O’Reilly. CEO of Team Humber Marine Alliance, right, talks about the new Siemens turbine blade manufacturing plant in Hull with New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell.

new industry.

In addition, colleges and universities are training engineers to work within the new industry, and training organizations update the skills of existing and future wind turbine technicians.

The UK last month had its first full day of energy generated without the aid of coal. As the country moves toward a future powered increasingly by renewables, offshore wind is expected to bring continued prosperity to The Humber.

Birth of a new base industry in New Bedford

It took a century for the epicenter of the whaling industry to shift from Nantucket to New Bedford, and it took half a century for whaling to give way to textiles here.

Things happen a lot faster now, thanks to technology, instant communications and global competition, and by the time this decade is over, the US offshore wind industry will have evolved from a concept to a base energy industry along the East Coast.

Listen to New Bedford Economic Development Director Derek Santos (above) and Wind Energy Center Director Paul Vigeant (below) talk about New Bedford’s position at the center of a new base industry that will supply vast amounts of clean, renewable energy and employ an estimated 43,000 workers by 2030.

Offshore wind industry opens shop in New Bedford

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell (above) welcomed Deepwater Wind’s opening of its Massachusetts headquarters in the former Standard-Times building downtown Friday, saying the city “wants to be the center of it all” as offshore wind matures into a new base industry for the Commonwealth.

“We want the offshore wind industry to form a cluster here,” he said, adding that New Bedford wants not only the assembly and deployment business, and  manufacturing and support services.

“But we also want the front office as well,” he said, as is the case with New Bedford’s top-grossing fishing industry, which brings together labor, capital and research (from the UMass School for Marine Science and Technology).

“We’re not going just to be the city of big shoulders in the offshore wind industry…*(but) the city with the brains and capital as well,” Mitchell said.

Jeff Grybowski (below), the CEO of Deepwater, which last year built the first offshore wind farm in the US off Block Island and next will build a 90MW wind farm off eastern Long Island, said the company has “a string of projects we hope to build in the US in the coming decade.

“New Bedford has always been at the center of our strategy for building out this industry,” he said.

Deepwater Wind’s New Bedford office opens Friday

Deepwater Wind, the successful developer of the first US offshore wind farm, will officially open an office in New Bedford on Friday.

The company is opening southeastern Massachusetts headquarters on the top floor of the historic Standard-Times building, 555 Pleasant St. Deepwater Wind’s Massachusetts vice president, Matthew Morrissey, said the company expects New Bedford — home to the nation’s only marine commerce terminal designed specifically to handle the enormous weight of wind turbine components — to play a central role in the buildout of the new offshore wind industry.

It’s been a busy period for the company. In addition to completing its Block Island project in 2016, Deepater Wind recently completed an agreement with a New York utility to build a 90 MW project off Long Island. It also plans to develop another wind project off Rhode Island and expects to be one of the bidders on a 400MW project that will be bid this spring off Massachusetts — part of a new energy law that requires Massachusetts utilities to purchase 1,600MW of power over the next decade.

 

Morrissey, Haddad honored for work on behalf of offshore wind

The selection of Deepwater Wind Vice President Matthew Morrissey and state Rep. Patricia Haddad, D-Somerset, as SouthCoast Man and Woman of the Year is recognition not only of the  duo’s great work on offshore wind, but also of the collaborative and consistent approach needed to build the new industry.

Morrissey and Haddad deserve great credit for their leadership and years worth of determination to persuade the Massachusetts Legislature, Gov. Charlie Baker, a swarm of environmental groups and regulators, and regional business interests that the state and region could be the launching point for a new industry that would help fight global warming and create vast economic opportunities.

But both Morrissey and Haddad would be the first to admit that it took a concerted effort from the entire legislative delegation, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell and Economic Development Director Derek Santos, the Port of New Bedford, local colleges and universities, and others to win passage of a new state law requiring Massachusetts’ utilities to purchase 1,600 MW of offshore wind power.

And it will take similar commitment to make sure that the industry, which will start to build out over the next decade, provides the benefits that we all seek. The interests of commercial fishermen, organized labor, marine mammals, coastal communities and business and residential power users all will need to be protected.

In the meantime, we applaud The Standard-Times’ selection of Morrissey and Haddad, and we congratulate the pair for accomplishing something many people would have called impossible not long ago.

Learn what offshore wind means for New Bedford

Events are happening so quickly as  the new US offshore wind industry begins to take shape that it’s hard to keep up. It’s harder still to know what is happening here in New Bedford, which will be home port for much of the work as the industry builds out. Just what will happen here, when will it happen and what will all of that mean?

You’ll have a chance to find out about what offshore wind will mean for New Bedford and southeastern Massachusetts businesses and workers at a Feb. 9 breakfast conversation hosted by the New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce.

The discussion will feature a panel including:

— Paul Vigeant, managing director of the New Bedford Wind Energy Center;

— Derek Santos, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council;

— Ed Anthes-Washburn, director of the Port of New Bedford;

— Matthew Morrissey, Massachusetts vice president for Deepwater Wind, one of three developers looking to build wind farms south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

They’ll talk about what the building of an offshore wind industry will likely mean for New Bedford and other Massachusetts and Rhode Island coastal cities. Deepwater Wind recently began producing electrical power at its wind farm just off Block Island and is expected to bid next spring on  a contract to build 400 MW of power on leased federal ocean waters 15 to 25 miles off the Vineyard. The Port of New Bedford is home to the nation’s only Marine Commerce Terminal built especially to accommodate the assembly and shipping of enormous offshore wind turbine components, and the New Bedford Economic Development Council and the Port of New Bedford are deep into planning how best to accommodate and encourage the growth of the new industry.

The discussion is part of the Chamber’s popular Good Morning SouthCoast series and will be held at 7:30 a.m. at the Waypoint Convention Center at the Fairfield Inn & Suites, 185 MacArthur Dr, New Bedford. Contact the Chamber for reservations.

 

Deepwater Wind’s Morrissey sees big things for his hometown

img_0052Matt Morrissey is a New Bedford guy through and through. He’s run for mayor, sat on the UMass Dartmouth board of trustees, headed the city economic development office and directed the New Bedford Wind Energy Center. When offshore wind captured his imagination five or six years ago, he saw it as a chance to help do something big for his hometown.

He helped form the Offshore Wind Massachusetts advocacy group that successfully made the case that offshore wind could help the commonwealth meet its green energy targets and build a brand new industry that would employ thousands of people in good jobs at high wages. As most people know, Gov. Charlie Baker signed energy legislation last August that required the state’s utilities to purchase energy produced by the three developers leasing federal waters for wind farms south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Not long after, he went to work for one of those developers, Deepwater Wind, which recently finished building the first offshore wind farm in the United States. Deepwater and the other developers, Bay State Wind and Vineyard Wind, all are committed to using the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal to help support the construction of hundreds of immense wind turbines 15 to 25 miles off the coast.

Morrissey sees big things for his hometown. Listen to what he has to say about the advantages the Port of New Bedford enjoys has over anyplace else as the offshore wind industry  takes off over the next decade.

Fishermen helped in siting offshore wind farms

You can’t say that Massachusetts officials haven’t been engaged during the creation of the new offshore wind industry. Bill White of the Massachusetts

Bill White of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center told an audience in New Bedford that the state's first 1,600 MW of offshore wind will eliminate 2.4 million tons of greenhouse gases annually;

Bill White of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center told an audience in New Bedford that the state’s first 1,600 MW of offshore wind will eliminate 2.4 million tons of greenhouse gases annually;

Clean Energy Center told an audience of about 50 at the New Bedford Free Public Library that more than 100 meetings with citizens and stakeholders have been held since 2009.

The state created working groups on fisheries and habitat to ensure that the interests of both commercial fishermen and environmental advocates were taken into consideration in identifying the future sites of offshore wind farms south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

As a result of those conversations, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management reduced the area leased to offshore wind developers Deepwater Wind, Bay State Wind and Vineyard Wind by 60 percent. Other conversation will guide the routes of buried electrical transmission lines under 6 to 12 feet of ocean floor.

“A lot of the changes (resulted from) the input of the commercial fishing industry,” White said.

Studies of marine species — including right whales and leatherback turtles — and birds like long-tailed ducks and white wing scoters that are frequent visitors to our waters are ongoing, and recommendations to regulate construction and location of wind turbines 15 to 25 miles south of the Vineyard are forthcoming, along with additional studies to help guide the process so that it works in the everyone’s best interests.

New Bedford Wind Energy Center Director Paul Vigeant is helping lead a study of workforce size and training needs for the new industry as it builds out over the next decade.

“Our goal is to know in four or five years that we have a ready workforce,” he said.

Bristol Community College, UMass Dartmouth and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy are participating in the study.

 

 

 

Experienced marine workforce gives New Bedford the edge

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It’s not just that New Bedford is located only half a day’s sale from the site of the new offshore wind farms that will be built just south of Martha’s Vineyard over the next decade, providing Massachusetts more than 10 percent of its power needs.  And it’s not just that the Port of New Bedford is home to the nation’s only Marine Commerce Terminal built specifically for the needs of the new industry.

New Bedford is also home to thousands of workers who have experience working in a marine environment and access to training programs that are already in place or being developed, A partnership involving Bristol Community College, UMass Dartmouth and the Mass. Maritime Academy is studying the types of jobs and skills that will be required and will help lay the groundwork for an integrated training program that can serve the new industry…and provide hundreds of new, good-paying jobs.

An ideal workforce will have “have this blend of technical skills that you can do in a marine environment,” said Paul Vigeant, the vice president for workforce development at Bristol Community College and the director of the New Bedford Wind Energy Center. “That differentiates New Bedford from any place in North America. . . .We have the individuals with the trade skills that can be applied in a marine environment.”

“It’s one thing to know how to fix an electrical machine. It’s another thing to be able to to fix it on  top of a 35-story building in the middle of the ocean.”

 

Offshore wind and commercial fishing can — and must — coexist.

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John Quinn, Chairman, New England Fishery Management Council from Unger LeBlanc Inc. on Vimeo.

NEW BEDFORD is not only the home to the only Marine Commerce Terminal on the East Coast built to handle the massive components of offshore wind turbines. It is also home to the top-grossing fishing port in the United States.

So the offshore wind industry that will be built off our coast over the next decade when 1,600 MW of power-producing turbines are erected 15 to 25 miles off Martha’s Vineyard will need to co-exist with New Bedford’s hugely important commercial fishing industry, which produced more than $329 million in landings last year. More than 90 percent of that total comes from scallops, which in recent years have been selling at nearly record high prices in an expanding global market. In addition, some 4,400 people work in the commercial fishing  industry, which generates more than $1 billion in economic activity.

Not all of those are fishermen, who are limited in the number of days they can work each year by federal regulations that strictly limit how much fishermen, especially draggers and trawlers, can catch. It’s possible for the offshore wind industry to employ many of those workers when they are not at sea and are looking to supplement their earnings and benefits.

John Quinn, former state representative from Dartmouth, is the chairman of the New England Fishery Management Council, which looks out for the needs of fish,  fishermen and fishing communities like New Bedford. He believes that offshore wind can coexist with commercial fishing in New Bedford — especially if offshore wind supporters can demonstrate clear benefits for those working in the fishing industry and can demonstrate that offshore wind activities will not harm fish or fishermen.