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Gov. Baker to sign energy bill, launch offshore wind industry

Gov. Charlie Baker is expected to sign Massachusetts’ landmark energy bill on Monday, giving Massachusetts a head start in the race to develop a national offshore wind industry.

The bill calls for public utilities to buy 1,600 MW of power generated from offshore wind farms over the coming decade. That’s enough power to replace more than 10 percent of the state’s total energy needs, while removing millions of tons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and helping to meet the state’s ambitious renewable energy commitment.

Three energy firms — Deepwater Wind, DONG Energy and Offshore MW — will submit bids to sell the power produced by wind farms located off Martha’s Vineyard, and that competition over price should keep energy rates low.

As the industry is built, thousands of new jobs are expected to be created. In Europe, where offshore wind has been providing power for more than two decades, the first 2,000 MW of power produced some 20,000 jobs.

And the U.S. Department of Labor forecasts that the fastest-growing occupation will be wind turbine technician.

That’s good news for port cities like New Bedford — along with Fall River, Quincy and Gloucester — as well as other struggling industrial cities in the Northeast. New Bedford is able to offer marine services, available land and thousands of employees already trained to work on the water, as well as the nations’  only marine commerce terminal built especially for offshore wind.

The median income for an experienced worker in the offshore wind energy field worldwide in 2014 was more than $88,000 a year.

 

OFFSHORE WIND A REALITY FOR MASSACHUSETTS

Massachusetts will jumpstart a new American offshore wind industry.

The state Legislature approved a landmark energy bill, requiring that state utilities purchase 1,600 MW of electricity produced by wind farms located 15 to 25 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. The wind farms will be located in federal waters leased to Deepwater Wind, which is completing the nation’s first wind power plant serving Block Island; DONG Energy, the international leader in offshore wind power generation; and Offshore MW.

New Bedford, home to the only marine commerce terminal in the United States which was built especially to accommodate  the enormous size and heavy weights of offshore wind turbine components, will also be the major seaport nearest to where the wind farms will be built.

A lot of people deserve credit for this important victory for Massachusetts, which will be able to replace obsolete power plants with non-polluting wind and hydroelectric power. Special thanks go to Rep. Pat Haddad, D-Somerset, who championed the fight for offshore wind in the Legislature, and Matthew Morrissey of New Bedford, the executive director of Offshore Wind Massachusetts, who brought together the coalition that ultimately resulted in Sunday night’s passage of the new energy legislation. Special thanks for state Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, for pushing an aggressive timeline that will require the purchase of 400 MW of offshore wind power every 24 months for the next decade, as well as Rep. Tony Cabral, who worked side by side with Haddad to get offshore wind built into the House energy bill. The Wind Energy Center’s managing director, Paul Vigeant, has been part of the offshore wind effort for years and deserves enormous credit, as does the leadership of the House and Senate.

Effective local representation and advocacy made all the difference!

Great news for Massachusetts and the New Bedford-Fall River area.

 

Deepwater Wind will build off Long Island

The US offshore wind industry has been launched.

Deepwater Wind, which is completing the first US project off the coast of Block Island, has reached agreement with the Long Island Power Authority to build a 15-torbine (90MW) offshore wind farm east of Montauk Point. That’s near both the Block Island project and an additional tract of ocean that Deepwater has leased off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. The LIPA board is expected to approve the agreement Monday.

Deepwater is one of three developers looking to build more than 10 times that amount of wind power in federal waters south of the Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts. How much — likely somewhere between 1,200 and 2,000 MW, will be determined by the final shape of an energy bill expected to be approved by the Legislature after differences between House and Senate versions are ironed out.

Offshore energy offers a vast untapped resource for the United States, with the US Department of Energy estimating that a total of 600 GW of offshore wind power — about six times the amount of power the nation now uses — can be captured off both coasts.

Massachusetts charting new course on clean energy

sailing-windgenerators-webBetween now and the end of July, Massachusetts will make history

The House of Representatives and the state Senate will appoint members to a conference committee that will recommend a final bill that will shape the Commonwealth’s energy policy for decades. The bill must be passed by the end of the current legislative session July 31 before going to Gov. Charlie Baker for his signature.

The conference committee will reconcile differences between the two bodies over how much offshore wind power public utilities will be required to buy, as well as determine the role of other green energy sources like solar and hydro in the state’s energy portfolio.

In addition, the bill reflects growing concern about natural gas, which already accounts for about 63 percent of the state’s power. A study by the office of Attorney General Maura Healey last fall found that no new pipelines are necessary and that green energy offered a better, more affordable option in the future. One provision in the Senate’s version would forbid the utilities charging ratepayers for the up-front costs of new gas pipelines.

The local legislative delegation, led by state Rep. Pat Haddad worked effectively for two years to ensure that offshore wind would play a central role in Massachusetts’ energy future. Just a little more work to be done!

US already among world leaders in wind power

The offshore wind industry is in its infancy in the United States, but the United States already already has installed enough land-based wind farms to power 19 million homes.

And the U.S. Department of Energy says wind will supply 10 percent of the country’s electricity by 2020, 20 percent by 2030 and 35 percent by 2050.

 A typical wind turbine has more than 8,000 components, and those pieces are manufactured in 500 plants in 43 U.S. states, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Learn what that might mean for Massachusetts, which will be the home of the first industrial-scale offshore wind farm in the USW. Read New Bedford Wind Energy Center Director Paul Vigeant’s take on the future of wind here.

Americans of all persuasions turning to renewable energy

The tide is turning in the United States on the subject of climate change, with significant majorities of both Democratic and Republican parties favoring limits on carbon dioxide pollution, establishing carbon taxes to reduce the federal income tax, and supporting research into renewable  sources of energy

In a report issued in March 2016, the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication found that 70 percent of Americans believe that climate change is occurring — an increase of 7 percentage points from the year before.

The issue is most important to Democrats. Climate Wire says that liberals see climate change as more important than “race relations, gun control, terrorism and Supreme Court nominations.”

But Republicans also have come around, with 48 percent now saying they believe climate change is real, up from 28 percent two years ago. That said, it’s a back-burner issue for the GOP while the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee for president, Donald Trump, has said “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”

While nearly two out of five people in the world have never even heard of climate change, despite having witnessed its effects, three out of four Americans believe the public schools should be teaching about it.

While registered voters are more likely to support a candidate who favors taking actions against climate change, conservative Republicans say they are less likely to vote for a candidate who supports such action.

Sens. Markey, Whiteside give offshore wind a boost

Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey made good on his promise to push to extend the 30-percent investment tax credit for the new US offshore wind industry.

Markey joined fellow Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in filing the Offshore Wind Incentives for New Development (WIND) Act, which would extend the tax break for offshore wind through 2025. Because offshore wind is a new industry and several projects in Massachusetts, New York and other East Coast states await legislative and/or regulatory approval, wind farm developers otherwise would not be able to take advantage of the investment tax credit, which is set to expire in 2019. The tax credit should help keep electricity rates for businesses and homeowners down by lowering initial developer

European Wind Farm Photo Courtesy: Siemens and Cape Wind

European Wind Farm Photo Courtesy: Siemens and Cape Wind

costs.

Great work by Sens. Markey and Whiteside. Building out a new industry that will be such a significant gain in the effort to build new sources of clean, renewable and affordable energy.

WEC’S Paul Vigeant: America waking up to wind power

Paul Vigeant, Executive Director of the New Bedford Wind Energy Center and Vice President for Workforce Development for Bristol Community College, recently attended the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Conference in New Orleans.

In all, 7,200 representatives of the wind energy sector attended the three-day event – the biggest turnout ever. And news that the Massachusetts House of Representatives released legislation calling for 1,200 megawatts of offshore wind energy created lots of buzz.

We caught up with Paul to get his impressions about the conference and where wind energy is today in the United States.

Q. Tell us a little about the conference.

  1. All of the major land-based wind energy companies were in attendance. My first impression is how wind energy is no longer just this cool experience or a lark. It is real business. It is emerging as a real energy player in the United States and the world.

Q. That’s interesting. We think of Europe as the leader in wind energy.

  1. Europe is the leader in offshore wind energy, no question. But in land-based wind, the United States is the dominant player in the whole world. The U.S. has more than 50,000 land-based turbines with 70 gigawatts of installed capacity. That’s a lot of power and it continues to grow.

Q.  How does offshore wind fit into the picture?

  1. A lot of the technology used for land-based wind is transferable to offshore wind. We manufacture wind turbines right here in the United States. In fact, the combination of the European experience with offshore wind — they’ve made a lot of mistakes that we can learn from — and the know-how of our existing wind industry provides is pretty powerful foundation for a new industry.

Q. Was anyone paying attention to the Massachusetts energy bill that calls for 1,200 megawatts of offshore wind energy?

  1. The news was a little slow to leak out. But then it made the newsletter that they produce for the conference, and it created a lot of buzz. People recognize that this is the dawn of a new industry in the United States and that they can be part of it. It’s not just the wind people who see this. People who work on the oil and gas rigs in the Gulf have skills that can be used in offshore wind. In fact, they already are working on the DeepWater project off of Rhode Island.

Q. How does all this relate to New Bedford and efforts to establish this industry on the South Coast of Massachusetts?

  1. In the next 20 years, the fastest growing occupation in the country will be wind turbine technician, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. But it’s not on anyone’s radar. There is no consistent training or certification or even an agreement about what a properly trained wind turbine tech needs to know. At BCC, we have a wind energy program and we can help lead the way in workforce development. Also, we already have the workers. The maritime workforce in our region has the skills needed to operate and maintain offshore wind turbines.  All they need is the right training.

Add your voice in support of offshore wind

A recent study by the University of Delaware found that a commitment by Massachusetts to build 2,000 MW of offshore wind power is likely to mean a 55-percent drop in price within a decade.

The UD Special Initiative on Offshore Wind concluded that “costs will be far lower than previously contracted prices for offshore wind in the New England region and that costs will continuously lower throughout a build-out during the decade, due to ongoing technology and industry advances and the effects of making a Massachusetts market visible to the industry.”

But the key to the savings is quantity, which is why the study suggests 2,000 MW — more than either the amount now supplied by the Pilgrim Nuclear or Brayton Point power plants — is essential for the offshore wind industry to achieve maximum efficiency and savings. That’s true in everything manufactured. The cost per car is a lot cheaper if you build a million of them instead of just one or two.

The Massachusetts Legislature will debate new energy legislation to combat climate change and replace obsolete coal and nuclear plants. That bill in the House currently includes 1,200 MW of power. Various business and environmental groups are pushing the legislative leadership and Gov. Charlie Baker to increase the amount of offshore wind included in the final legislation to at least 2,000 MW to achieve the maximum environmental and economic benefits.

We hope you will consider writing a letter to House Speaker Robert DeLeo at State House, Room 356Boston, MA 02133 or a quick email to Robert.DeLeo@mahouse.gov. We also ask that you send that letter to Senate President Stan Rosenberg, State House Room 332Boston, MA 02133 or email Stan.Rosenberg@masenate.gov. Please ask them to agree to raise the threshold for offshore wind to 2,000 MW. In doing so, you will be advocating thousands of new jobs for this new American industry, starting right here in New Bedford. And you’ll also help remove 3 million tons of carbon dioxide from our air each year!

Do wind turbines threaten bird populations?

Are offshore wind turbines a danger to bird populations?

Worries about the effect of turbines on marine wildlife, especially birds, have been voiced by some skeptics. So, what are the facts?

Researchers have conducted a number of studies and found that while wind turbines do account for some bird deaths — estimates run from 20,000 to more than half a million in the entire United States — even the most dire estimates suggest that wind turbines are responsible for only a fraction of the number of bird deaths caused by other factors, including collisions with buildings.

In Toronto alone, as many as 9 million migrating birds are killed in collisions with buildingsBird_mortality.svg, according to a study by the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP). In the U.S. collisions with buildings kill hundreds of millions of birds each year in the U.S.

Hunters kill from 100 million to 120 million birds annually in the U.S., while transmission lines kill about 175 million. Meanwhile, feral and domestic cats may kill as many as 3.7 billion birds in the U.S. each year, according to a study by British scientist Benjamin K. Sovacool.

Other research has found that the gravest danger is from continued release of greenhouse gases and the resulting climate change. Mark Urban of the University of Connecticut wrote, “If greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated, 16 percent of species will be threatened with extinction due to climate change by the end of the century.” He based that on an analysis of 131 separate studies on the topic.

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