Offshore wind will help propel resurgent New Bedford

There’s a good interview with Mayor Jon Mitchell in CommonWealth magazine’s fall issue about the resurgence of New Bedford, and offshore wind was a big part of the conversation.

Given that many in Massachusetts equate offshore wind with the mothballed Cape Wind project, the focus by CommonWealth, an influential issue-centered publication of the public policy think tank MassINC, on offshore wind as part of the New Bedford turnaround story constitutes a recognition that the industry has become an important piece of the Massachusetts energy and economic development future.

Gov. Charlie Baker in August signed an energy bill into law that will require public utilities over the next decade to buy 1,600 MW of power — that’s about 10 percent of the state’s entire use — from offshore wind farms being built 15 to 25 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. And the three energy development firms that will bid to supply that power in a series of auctions that will award contracts based on lowest cost for power produced have agreed to use the $113 million New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal to serve the new industry. Meanwhile, Bristol Community College’s vice president for workforce development, Paul Vigeant (who also serves as director of the New Bedford Wind Energy Center), will work with experts at UMass Dartmouth and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy to assess workforce needs and assets for the new industry.

Mayor Mitchell started out like a lot of people, with the sense that the offshore wind industry was Cape Wind and nothing else. But like others, he has learned about offshore wind and recognizes its great potential for New England, for Massachusetts…and for New Bedford. Here’s what he said:

“Early on in my administration, I, like a lot of other people, just associated the offshore wind industry with Cape Wind. That was the thing that was in the news, and I didn’t know much about the growth of the industry in northern Europe. But as I started to dig into it, it made all the sense in the world to put eggs into that basket because of the geographic advantages we have. I distinctly remember reading a Department of Energy report that said 25 percent of the nation’s wind reserves lie in the area south of Martha’s Vineyard going down the Eastern Seaboard. We’re the closest industrial seaport. We’ve got the deep water harbor. Now we have the marine terminal that is perfect for the wind industry because of its load capacity. And we have this seafaring workforce that is second to none in America. Offshore wind is a way to diversify our industry mix on the waterfront.”


Workforce, geography and history put New Bedford at center stage for buildout of new offshore wind industry

New Bedford has emerged as the likely launching point for the next U.S. energy industry.

Deepwater Wind, one of the three firms expected to bid for the right to develop the first industrial-scale offshore wind farm off the Massachusetts coast, will open an office in New Bedford. DONG Energy and Offshore MW, the other two likely bidders, have joined Deepwater Wind in signing an agreement to use the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal for the buildout of the new industry.

Ed Anthes-Washburn, the director of the Port of New Bedford, believes this is just the beginning for New Bedford as the offshore industry expands over the next decade and beyond.

The port is “uniquely positioned as the center of offshore wind in the United States…Our workforce has always been focused on marine (service) and fabrication and doing work out on the oceans,” he says of New Bedford, home to the most profitable commercial fishing port in the U.S. “Our biggest strength is our people. Our workforce is well-suited for the (offshore wind) industry.”

To that end, Washburn and others are striving to make sure that the needs of those commercial fishermen and the workings of the fishing port are accounted for. He said one of the Harbor Development Commission’s most important roles will be to mediate any potential disagreements and that one of his main goals is to “make sure the commercial fishing industry and the offshore wind industry are working together for the benefit of each.”

As with the real estate business, the Port of New Bedford’s success also is about location, location, location. He puts it in historical terms.

“The same reason that whaling made sense in New Bedford is that we’re closest to the resource, so what we want to do now is use that advantage with smart infrastructure and land-use planning and turn it into an industry that is …an economic driver” for the city.

Hear what else Anthes-Washburn has to say about the future of this exciting new industry and what it will mean to New Bedford and the surrounding communities.

New Bedford looks to reap lots of good-paying jobs

Paul Vigeant Europe has a head start of more than two decades on the United States in the development of offshore wind, and backers of offshore wind here expect to learn from Europe’s experience.
In the first six months of 2016, Europe installed more than 4,000MW of offshore wind power to the European grid, bringing the total amount of installed power to more than 11,500MW. (Compare that to the 1,600MW that will be built of the Massachusetts coast during the next decade).
US developers — who will use the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal during the installation of the turbines off Martha’s Vineyard — plan to benefit from technological improvements that will reduce costs. Bigger, more efficient turbines mean that fewer will have to be built to provide power equivalent to that of those being built in Europe.
New Bedford, of course, is in a prime position with a the marine commerce terminal being located near the Vineyard and it being the only one in the country built especially to handle the tremendous size and weight of new wind turbine components.
And southeastern Massachusetts, especially New Bedford — home to the most lucrative fishing port in the country — can provide thousands of workers who have experience working in a marine environment.
Internationally, the median wage of offshore wind employees with five years experience is more than $88,000 per year. That’s good news for workers in greater New Bedford.
New Bedford Wind Energy Center Director Paul Vigeant, above, vice president for workforce development at Bristol Community College, predicts that lots of good-paying, permanent jobs will be available in maintaining and operating the wind turbines that will be built here in coming years. He expects entry-level wages of at least $18-$20 per hour to start.

New Bedford commands center stage in nation’s energy future

How big a deal is it that a new federal energy strategy was announced not in  Texas or Oklahoma, but right here in Massachusetts? And how big a deal is that New Bedford was at center stage for the announcement that the United States supports the construction of 86,000 MW of offshore wind power by 2050, about 14 percent of the projected demand for new electricity generation on the coast and Great Lakes states, according to a new federal report on the future of offshore wind.

Mayor Jon Mitchell, Rep. Pat Haddad, New Bedford Wind Energy Center Director Paul Vigeant and Deepwater Wind Massachusetts Vice President Matthew Morrissey (former director of the WEC and the New Bedford Economic Development office) were among those at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s (MassCEC) Wind Technology Testing Center in Charlestown for Friday’s announcement. (Watch video below  of comments from US Sen. Edward Markey during that announcement).

Present for the announcement were two members of President Obama’s cabinet, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is from Fall River, and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, along with Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Abigail Hopper

Their presence reflects Massachusetts’ and New Bedford’s central role in the launch of this new industry. Just last week, three offshore wind developers agreed to use the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal for the first industrial-scale offshore wind farm in the United States, which will be built in federal waters off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

“This national offshore wind plan positions New Bedford at the center of activity. The offshore wind energy identified in this plan is sufficient to power the entire nation now and well into the future,” said the WEC’s Vigeant. “Developers will need a full service industrial port to deploy and service their turbines, towers and foundations. And they will need a highly skilled workforce that knows how to work in the marine environment.

“So New Bedford is ready to act now to capitalize on its port and training advantages. Eventually other ports and cities will catch up and compete with New Bedford. We need to outhustle the competition and take advantage of our port assets.”

So…we have lots of work to do as this new industry takes off, but this much we know: we will NOT be outhustled!


Mayor Mitchell says New Bedford holds future in its own hands

It was big news this week when three offshore wind companies signed an agreement to use the Port of New Bedford as a base for building their wind farms off the coast of Massachusetts.

But for New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, it was just one more step — if an essential one — toward making this city the center of the offshore wind energy industry in the United States.

“We have made a lot of progress and the offshore wind industry has shown a certain level of interest in New Bedford, but it’s not pre-ordained that New Bedford will prosper as a result,” Mitchell said. “It is incumbent upon us to seize the initiative.”

The mayor envisions a city where offshore wind is a broad and varied presence. He would like to see the developers open offices in the city and offshore wind technicians trained here. He also would like the city to host research related to all aspects of offshore wind energy, from turbine technology to ocean currents. He wants to involve all sectors of the economy, from maritime to higher education, and hopes that over time offshore wind jobs will encompass welders, truck drivers, carpenters, boat operators, engineers, academics and back office support.

New Bedford has a head start in making that vision a reality. The port has the $113 million New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, which is the only terminal in the United States built to the specifications of the offshore wind industry.  As an active fishing and cargo port that by some measures is larger than the Port of Boston, New Bedford also has an experienced maritime workforce and a roster of businesses that can supply offshore wind’s needs. Furthermore, the city has been working for five years to get to know the offshore wind energy industry. In early 2013, Mitchell established the New Bedford Wind Energy Center as part of the New Bedford Economic Development Council.

“We have a lead of sorts to become the the center of a new industry and solidify the region’s economic base for the foreseeable future,” Mitchell said. “But we have a lot of work to do to prepare and there are challenges ahead.”

Ports in Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York and Baltimore are recognizing the opportunities in offshore wind and soon could make themselves competitive with New Bedford, he said. New Bedford and its businesses have more to learn about the needs of the industry to make themselves more attractive to developers. And as well positioned as the port is today, it still needs infrastructure improvements, including a new Fairhaven bridge, a freight rail line along the port and a rebuilt north terminal, he said.

The mayor has faith that these challenges can be overcome. New Bedford’s economic decline has limited people’s perceptions of what is possible, he said, and a belief developed that only bad things happen to New Bedford.

“I want to turn that perception on its head,” Mitchell said. “I want people to understand that New Bedford’s future is primarily in its own hands. We certainly need partnerships with higher levels of government and we need luck on our side. But we can compete very effectively, so let’s get on with it,” he said.

“We want to be seen as the city that hustles, that is forward-leaning, cutting edge, where new things are happening all the time.”