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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 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!