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.

Birth of a new base industry in New Bedford

It took a century for the epicenter of the whaling industry to shift from Nantucket to New Bedford, and it took half a century for whaling to give way to textiles here.

Things happen a lot faster now, thanks to technology, instant communications and global competition, and by the time this decade is over, the US offshore wind industry will have evolved from a concept to a base energy industry along the East Coast.

Listen to New Bedford Economic Development Director Derek Santos (above) and Wind Energy Center Director Paul Vigeant (below) talk about New Bedford’s position at the center of a new base industry that will supply vast amounts of clean, renewable energy and employ an estimated 43,000 workers by 2030.

Morrissey, Haddad honored for work on behalf of offshore wind

The selection of Deepwater Wind Vice President Matthew Morrissey and state Rep. Patricia Haddad, D-Somerset, as SouthCoast Man and Woman of the Year is recognition not only of the  duo’s great work on offshore wind, but also of the collaborative and consistent approach needed to build the new industry.

Morrissey and Haddad deserve great credit for their leadership and years worth of determination to persuade the Massachusetts Legislature, Gov. Charlie Baker, a swarm of environmental groups and regulators, and regional business interests that the state and region could be the launching point for a new industry that would help fight global warming and create vast economic opportunities.

But both Morrissey and Haddad would be the first to admit that it took a concerted effort from the entire legislative delegation, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell and Economic Development Director Derek Santos, the Port of New Bedford, local colleges and universities, and others to win passage of a new state law requiring Massachusetts’ utilities to purchase 1,600 MW of offshore wind power.

And it will take similar commitment to make sure that the industry, which will start to build out over the next decade, provides the benefits that we all seek. The interests of commercial fishermen, organized labor, marine mammals, coastal communities and business and residential power users all will need to be protected.

In the meantime, we applaud The Standard-Times’ selection of Morrissey and Haddad, and we congratulate the pair for accomplishing something many people would have called impossible not long ago.

Learn what offshore wind means for New Bedford

Events are happening so quickly as  the new US offshore wind industry begins to take shape that it’s hard to keep up. It’s harder still to know what is happening here in New Bedford, which will be home port for much of the work as the industry builds out. Just what will happen here, when will it happen and what will all of that mean?

You’ll have a chance to find out about what offshore wind will mean for New Bedford and southeastern Massachusetts businesses and workers at a Feb. 9 breakfast conversation hosted by the New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce.

The discussion will feature a panel including:

— Paul Vigeant, managing director of the New Bedford Wind Energy Center;

— Derek Santos, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council;

— Ed Anthes-Washburn, director of the Port of New Bedford;

— Matthew Morrissey, Massachusetts vice president for Deepwater Wind, one of three developers looking to build wind farms south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

They’ll talk about what the building of an offshore wind industry will likely mean for New Bedford and other Massachusetts and Rhode Island coastal cities. Deepwater Wind recently began producing electrical power at its wind farm just off Block Island and is expected to bid next spring on  a contract to build 400 MW of power on leased federal ocean waters 15 to 25 miles off the Vineyard. The Port of New Bedford is home to the nation’s only Marine Commerce Terminal built especially to accommodate the assembly and shipping of enormous offshore wind turbine components, and the New Bedford Economic Development Council and the Port of New Bedford are deep into planning how best to accommodate and encourage the growth of the new industry.

The discussion is part of the Chamber’s popular Good Morning SouthCoast series and will be held at 7:30 a.m. at the Waypoint Convention Center at the Fairfield Inn & Suites, 185 MacArthur Dr, New Bedford. Contact the Chamber for reservations.


Fishermen helped in siting offshore wind farms

You can’t say that Massachusetts officials haven’t been engaged during the creation of the new offshore wind industry. Bill White of the Massachusetts

Bill White of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center told an audience in New Bedford that the state's first 1,600 MW of offshore wind will eliminate 2.4 million tons of greenhouse gases annually;

Bill White of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center told an audience in New Bedford that the state’s first 1,600 MW of offshore wind will eliminate 2.4 million tons of greenhouse gases annually;

Clean Energy Center told an audience of about 50 at the New Bedford Free Public Library that more than 100 meetings with citizens and stakeholders have been held since 2009.

The state created working groups on fisheries and habitat to ensure that the interests of both commercial fishermen and environmental advocates were taken into consideration in identifying the future sites of offshore wind farms south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

As a result of those conversations, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management reduced the area leased to offshore wind developers Deepwater Wind, Bay State Wind and Vineyard Wind by 60 percent. Other conversation will guide the routes of buried electrical transmission lines under 6 to 12 feet of ocean floor.

“A lot of the changes (resulted from) the input of the commercial fishing industry,” White said.

Studies of marine species — including right whales and leatherback turtles — and birds like long-tailed ducks and white wing scoters that are frequent visitors to our waters are ongoing, and recommendations to regulate construction and location of wind turbines 15 to 25 miles south of the Vineyard are forthcoming, along with additional studies to help guide the process so that it works in the everyone’s best interests.

New Bedford Wind Energy Center Director Paul Vigeant is helping lead a study of workforce size and training needs for the new industry as it builds out over the next decade.

“Our goal is to know in four or five years that we have a ready workforce,” he said.

Bristol Community College, UMass Dartmouth and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy are participating in the study.




3,000 percent increase in offshore wind capacity?

The growth prospects for the offshore wind industry? How about a 3,000 percent increase by 2045?

That’s the forecast for growth by the International Renewable Energy Agency, which released a report that stated that technology improvements, along with the entry of the United States and India into the industry, will help drive the expansion.


Experienced marine workforce gives New Bedford the edge



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.


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.