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.”