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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.

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.

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.”

Offshore wind developers will use Port of New Bedford, Marine Commerce Terminal

Offshore wind executives agree to use terminal in Port of New Bedford

Government officials look on as offshore wind developers sign letter of intent to use Marine Commerce Terminal in New Bedford.

New Bedford and the South Coast region took an important step today toward realizing the promise of offshore wind. Three offshore wind energy companies agreed to use the $113 million Marine Commerce Terminal in the Port of New Bedford to stage the wind farms they plan to build off the coast of Massachusetts.

Representatives of Bay State Wind, Offshore ME and Deepwater Wind signed a letter of intent in a ceremony at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, with Gov. Charlie Baker, Rep. Pat Haddad, Mayor Jon Mitchell and other government leaders looking on.

The agreement comes just a month after Gov. Baker signed landmark energy legislation that includes 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind. He lauded the vision and perseverance of supporters, who fought for years for offshore wind and in June battled into the final hours of the legislative session.

Noting that he is a relative newcomer to supporting offshore wind, Baker said, “Massachusetts is an ideal place for the offshore wind industry to flourish, innovate and develop, bringing quality jobs and long-term economic growth.”

Mayor Jon Mitchell said the day’s signing was the culmination of years of work by Matt Morrissey, vice president of Deepwater Wind; Paul Vigeant, executive director of the Wind Energy Center; Rep. Pat Haddad and rest of the South Coast legislative delegation and others.

He said that when he became mayor, he immediately saw the wisdom of having offshore wind in New Bedford. The port lands the most valuable catch of any fishing port in the country and hosts economic activity that contributes two percent to the state’s GDP. The city also is a nationally recognized leader in green energy.

He vowed, however, that New Bedford would compete hard for the offshore wind industry and not “just sit back and wait for it to happen.”

Morrissey predicted that offshore wind will become “a substantial industrial player in the economy of Southeastern Massachusetts.” In fact, the industry will soon become a reality in the United States, when five turbines start spinning at Deepwater Wind’s newly built 30 megawatt Block Island Wind Farm. Morrissey is the former managing director of Offshore Wind: Massachusetts and before that was head of the New Bedford Wind Energy Center.

Rep. Haddad said the backing of Gov. Baker and Energy Secretary Matthew Beaton was the result of “a lot of nagging” by supporters of offshore wind. But the work was not just for the City of New Bedford or the South Coast, she said, but for all of Massachusetts and New England.

Read news accounts at the Boston Globe, Southcoast Today, CBS News, and the Boston Business Journal.