Baker signs historic energy bill; offshore wind industry is born

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a  bill that will lead the state into a greener energy future with offshore wind and hydroelectric power replacing obsolete fossil fuel and nuclear plants.

At a Statehouse signing attended by state and local political leaders who helped lead the fight to pass the legislation, along with environmental and business leaders, Baker said the 1,600 MW of offshore wind power included in the new law would help Massachusetts meet aggressive greenhouse gas emission targets established to curb the effects of climate change linked to the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil.

“Today marks an historic occasion for the Commonwealth by creating a new industry via offshore wind,” said state Rep. Patricia A. Haddad, D-Somerset and Speaker Pro Tempore. She drafted the original energy bill that included a requirement that public utilities purchase at auction power produced from offshore wind farms located off Martha’s Vineyard. “This legislation also provides us with a solid foundation from which we can further increase our renewable energy sources and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Governor Baker and Secretary Beaton have been  good partners throughout the crafting of this bill, and it has been a pleasure to work with them.”

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito also attended the signing ceremony and said that “renewable energy (is) an important part of the long-term solution to climate changes.”

House Speaker Rober DeLeo said, “The bill represents a smart strategy toward price stability and the promise of a bright future for the Commonwealth.

“Offshore wind will cultivate a new industry in Massachusetts and create jobs for oBaker signsDeLeour citizens.”






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.


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.

1,200 MW a start to new offshore wind industry for Massachusetts, New Bedford

Decades from now, residents of Massachusetts may well remember 2016 as the year Massachusetts took the first decisive step into a greener, healthier future.

The Massachusetts Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee on Monday approved a comprehensive energy bill that would require the state’s public utilities to enter long-term contracts with offshore wind power producers to buy 1,200 MW of power. The producers — DONG Energy, Deepwater Wind and Offshore MW — will bid for the right to develop wind farms 15 to 25 miles from Martha’s Vineyard on a huge tract of ocean that is among the most reliably windy places on Earth. The price of that power will be key — both to the bidders and the state’s ratepayers.

The bill is expected to be debated in the House next month while a parallel bill moves through the Senate, after which a final legislation will go to Gov. Charlie Baker for his signature, at which point Massachusetts will become the center of a U.S. offshore wind industry. And New Bedford — with the East Coast’s only marine commerce terminal designed and built to handle the enormous weight and size of wind turbine components and a ready work force and seaport — stands to become the epicenter of a new industry expected to produce thousands of good-paying jobs over the coming decade.

Reaction to the inclusion of 1,200 MW of offshore wind, along with an equal amount of hydro power, was decidedly positive.

“The bill that has emerged represents a good first step to power Massachusetts’ fledgling offshore wind energy industry, while also ensuring the availability and stability of hydroelectric power,” the editorial boards of the Herald News of Fall River and Taunton Gazette wrote in an editorial.

Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson urged the Legislature to increase the amount of offshore wind power required under the final bill.

“The case for renewables in Massachusetts is more urgent than ever. The final bill should up the ante and provide for 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind — the level proposed by Representative Patricia Haddad of Somerset last year.”

News stories appeared in newspapers and on web sites around the nation, coinciding with the unanimous vote by the University of Massachusetts Foundation to become the first major public university to divest its holdings in all fossil fuels.

All in all, it has been a heck of a week.