Offshore wind makes more sense than hydro

By Miles Grant, National Wildlife Federation

July 12, 2015

The National Wildlife Federation welcomes Gov. Charlie Baker’s commitment to meet the goals of the commonwealth’s critical Global Warming Solutions Act. The imperative of taking action to protect people and wildlife from the dangers of climate change cannot be understated. With 2015 on an early pace to be the hottest year on record and June ranking as America’s second-warmest ever, we’re getting an urgent reminder of why we need large sources of clean energy to replace dirty and expensive fossil fuels.

The commonwealth has a massive, local clean energy opportunity ready to meet this challenge. Far off our coast, over the horizon, lies an area already designated by the federal government for wind development that contains a world-class energy resource.

NWF stands with business, labor and other community leaders that see the enormous economic growth opportunity in building offshore wind power. Massachusetts needs an energy strategy that drives innovation, prioritizes good paying jobs, and ensures our hard earned energy dollars are invested locally rather than in out-of-state and out-of-country energy companies that do little for our communities. Three companies have secured leases and are ready to move projects forward that would bring tremendous economic and environmental benefits to the commonwealth, the missing link is a commitment to buy the power.

Jobs: Deepwater Wind’s small five-turbine project off of Block Island is under construction, already creating hundreds of jobs out of Quonset, R.I. This and other projects will sustain dozens of long-term careers across a broad range of sectors. The state that commits to long-term market for offshore wind power will have huge advantages in getting the supply chain and manufacturing opportunities that come with it. Now is the moment to secure this critical hub status. Just think about how many jobs would be created in ports like New Bedford and across the entire SouthCoast if Massachusetts committed to offshore wind power. How many jobs will be created by sending our money to Canada for more hydro-power?

Price: While Massachusetts homes paid about 17 cents a kilowatt hour for electricity in 2014, Deepwater Wind expects projects developed far off the coast to be priced “in the low teens.” Just as computers and smart phones have plunged in price while skyrocketing in capacity, each generation of new clean energy technology becomes more efficient at harvesting renewable resources, attracts additional capital and spurs competition, further driving down costs. Right now, Massachusetts sends $18 billion (80 percent of our energy dollars) every year out of state to buy energy. Imagine how many jobs we could create by keeping that money here?

Rate spikes: Diversifying our energy mix with offshore wind is critical for protecting ratepayers from price spikes in the volatile fossil fuel markets. Offshore wind is an energy source that produces at high capacity during those expensive times when our electricity grid is most challenged — afternoons, hot summer days and winter cold snaps.

We welcome Gov. Baker’s commitment to continue transitioning the commonwealth to a low-carbon economy — and there is a strong economy-wide return on investment waiting for us in made-in-Massachusetts offshore wind power. Offshore wind is by far America’s largest untapped energy source, with enough energy to power over 5 million homes in already-designated areas off the East Coast.

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