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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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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.