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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.

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.

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.