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What happens to US energy policy under Trump?

President-elect Donald Trump’s selection of climate change skeptic Myron Ebell to lead his transition team’s environmental working group (he is also a possible candidate to head the EPA) has made renewable energy supporters nervous.

Ebell works for a libertarian think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, whose website states that it “questions global warming alarmism, makes the case for access to affordable energy, and opposes energy-rationing policies, including the Kyoto Protocol, cap-and-trade legislation, and EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. CEI also opposes all government mandates and subsidies for conventional and alternative energy technologies.”

And Trump, of course, has stated that his administration will be more interested in boosting the coal industry than the offshore wind or solar power industry. But if President Obama is right in describing Trump as a pragmatist rather than an ideologue, the incoming president conceivably could modify his stance. New York State, of course, is aggressively pursuing an alternative energy agenda, and offshore wind will be a part of that.

Look for the states to fill the void in environmental regulation and alternative energy policy if the federal government opts out.

Massachusetts remains a national leader in energy efficiency with fast growth in solar and a commitment to build 1,600 MW of offshore wind power over the next decade.

 

 

3,000 percent increase in offshore wind capacity?

The growth prospects for the offshore wind industry? How about a 3,000 percent increase by 2045?

That’s the forecast for growth by the International Renewable Energy Agency, which released a report that stated that technology improvements, along with the entry of the United States and India into the industry, will help drive the expansion.

 

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.”

 

By 2050, offshore wind will reshape our national economy

Over the next decade, wind farms that will produce 1,600 MW — more than 10 percent of the electrical power Massachusetts’ now uses — will be built off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

That is a lot of power, of course, but it is just the beginning. The U.S. departments of Energy and the Interior estimate that 86,000 MW of wind power can be developed off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts by 2050. You’ve probably heard someone say that the waters off Martha’s Vineyard make the Bay State “the Saudi Arabia of wind’ because they produce some of the planet’s strongest and most reliable winds located in close proximity to big coastal population centers that run north from Washington, D.C., to New England.

Harvesting that much wind power — that’s more than 50 times the amount that will produced at the three leased sites off the Vineyard — will depend on a lot of things:

— prices will need to continue to come down, as they are predicted to do over the next decade.  A study by the University of Delaware Special Initiative on Offshore Wind estimated the cost of offshore wind power could fall as much as 55 percent over the next decade due to improvements in technology and increased production efficiency.

— creation of a workforce with the training and skills to assemble, maintain and operate 200 or more turbines that will be built and installed on the three sites leased Bureau of Ocean Management to Deepwater Wind (which recently installed a 30 MW wind farm off Block Island), DONG Energy and Offshore Wind MW.

— a fluid project review and approval process that will enable developers to take best advantage of improved technology and data to reduce costs, ensure safety, and protect the marine environment.

But in the end, Massachusetts, New England and the entire country will benefit from the installation of clean, affordable, renewable wind power that will help us reduce greenhouse gases that have led to warming temperatures and rising sea levels, while creating a new industry that will help transform the economies of industrial port cities like New Bedford.

 

Government, private industry work closely to launch offshore wind

AWEAElected leaders and government administrators get a lot of criticism for erecting obstacles as businesses look to expand and compete in new markets.

Not a lot of that kind of talk at the American Wind Energy Association’s fall conference in Rhode Island, which is happening today and tomorrow. Nearly 600 attendees have heard speaker after speaker discuss the close collaboration among the founders of the new offshore wind energy industry and the federal and state agency leaders and elected leaders in creating a new industry, which is ready to begin producing power at a small wind farm developed by Deepwater Wind off Block Island and which is looking to new markets along the East Coast.

(At right, Bristol Community College’s Anthony Ucci, associate vice president for academic affairs and a designer of the college’s 32-credit wind energy certificate program, was among the nearly 600 people at the AWEA conference’s first day).

U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., has been a leading environmental leader, and he cautioned that the new wind industry faces great competition from a fossil field industry that effectively receives a $200 billion subsidy each year and is fighting hard against renewable sources of energy that threaten that subsidy.

“That’s a pretty big headwind,” said Whitehouse said, urging a fair accounting of the actual cost of energy produced by fossil fuel.

And it was great to hear a New York State official,  John Rhodes, president of that state’s energy research and development authority, speak in support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announced intention to require that half of the Empire State’s power production come from renewable sources, including offshore wind, by 2030.

It was enough to make a citizen of Massachusetts, which in August enacted legislation requiring the state’s utilities to purchase 1,600MW of electricity from wind farms to be built off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, proud and optimistic about the future of power production in the state.

Projects this big require partnership between private industry and federal and state government. That is happening hear, thanks largely to good will and common purpose on all sides to find new, environmentally friendly sources of power.

 

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.

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.”

 

The Port of New Bedford is at the center of new, national offshore wind industry

It was a big summer for the offshore wind industry and the Port of New Bedford. We asked Paul Vigeant, managing director of the New Bedford Wind Energy Center, to put the summer’s events into perspective and look ahead to what New Bedford can expect as the industry develops.Paul Vigeant

Let’s start by talking about recent events related to offshore wind, starting with the legislation passed in June.

The passage of the diversified energy legislation by the Massachusetts Legislature, [which was signed by] Gov. Charlie Baker, fundamentally starts the offshore wind industry in the United States. It creates a market an
d it requires the utility companies to purchase wind energy-generated electricity.  That legislation essentially starts the offshore wind industry in the United States.

Soon after, Gov. Baker, other high-level state officials and three offshore wind developers were in New Bedford. Why were they here?
Within a [month] of signing the legislation that creates the offshore wind industry in the United States, there was a significant event in New Bedford. All three of the lease holders who have the right to develop the Massachusetts Wind Energy Area signed a letter of intent with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which owns the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, which is purpose-built for the deployment of offshore wind devices. They collectively agreed to put up $5.7 million for the right to the terminal if they are selected as the provider of tha
t offshore wind energy.

Less than a week later, the federal government made headlines with offshore wind. Could you talk about that?

Good things happen in threes. So the third big announcement was a joint announcement by Secretary [Sally] Jewell, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and Secretary Ernie Muniz, the U.S. Secretary of Energy. They jointly announced the national offshore wind strategy and they chose to make that announcement here in Massachusetts, which in and of itself shows the importance of this issue on a national scale….

In that event, it was remarkable how many times the Port of New Bedford was referenced not only by Mayor Mitchell, who did a good job to promote New Bedford, as he always does…. But also, Secretary Muniz mentioned it. Steve Pike, who is the head of the Clean Energy Center here in Massachusetts, mentioned New Bedford, the port and the infrastructure. Secretary Jewel mentioned it. Sen.
Markey mentioned it.

It was very encouraging to be in the audience and hear so many national leaders talk about not only this national offshore wind strategy, which the United States finally has, but to hear them say how prominent a role New Bedford will pay in this new and emerging industry. It was a terrific day for New Bedford.

What does this all mean for for New Bedford?

You’re already seeing a number of roles for New Bedford in the offshore wind industry. Not long after the announcement by the governor that the game is on [by signing new energy legislation]  you started to see research vessels using New Bedford and they will be using New Bedford for the next 12 to 18 months to supply their boats…. They will need fuel. They will need provisioning. So the first pop for New Bedford all be survey vessels, research vessels using the Marine Commerce Terminal.

What is the biggest potential for New Bedford with offshore wind?
The real big play for offshore wind is called operation and maintenance. Once you build and install these towers, they’re going to be there for 20 to 30 years so you need routine maintenance every day on these towers. That represents the highest number of jobs in any of the phases [of offshore wind development]. It represents the longest number of years committed to that number of jobs in any of the phases, whether it is assembly, deployment or construction. We are very well positioned to be the operations and maintenance center for offshore wind.

Why are we well positioned as an operations and maintenance center for offshore wind?
Having the right workforce, the right skill sets, the right workers with the right training is so important for offshore wind. New Bedford has a competitive advantage in that it has partnered with Bristol Community College, which for over a decade has been offering as part of one of its engineering program a wind energy certificate. We’re very serious at BCC about renewable energy and reducing the carbon footprint. We just built a zero impact building and we provide. training that will lead you to an associate’s degree with a concentration in wind energy.

How does offshore wind relate to the fishing industry?

Another important aspect about the training required for the offshore wind industry is [having] a blend of technical skills that can you do in a marine environment. And that differentiates New Bedford over anywhere in North America.… Because of our robust seafood industry and our fishing industry…we have the individuals who have the trade skills that are applied in the marine environment. It’s one thing, for instance, to know how to fix an electrical machine. It’s another thing to be able to fix it on top of a 35-story building in the middle of the ocean.

So you envision that individuals who now work in commercial fishing will be employed by offshore wind?

The number of days that fishermen are now limited to makes them available to augment their wages by working as operations and maintenance technicians in the offshore wind industry. So i envision a day when fish harvesters work a full schedule harvesting scallops and other fish products, and when the boats are in port because they’ve exhausted their licensing days, those people can find jobs in a minute working in the offshore wind industry as production technicians and electronic technicians.

How will these jobs pay?

The production jobs in offshore wind are very stable jobs, but they are  also very well paying jobs, [which carry benefits]. I think you’re looking at entry level production wages at the $18 to $20 per hour range, which is for New Bedford a very attractive and livable wage.

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.

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.”