SouthCoast legislators stress potential benefits of wind power for region

By Michael Holtzman

July 11, 2014

The state’s renewable energy requirements need to include wind power opportunities as massive coal plants like Brayton Point Power Station shut down.

Wind power is a resource that can be tapped into within miles of this region’s coast.

That’s the message SouthCoast political, business and environmental leaders are making as they put on a full-court press to amend energy legislation that could be enacted this month.

A House clean energy bill adds delivery timetables and addresses the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

As written, the bill specifically defines clean energy generation as hydroelectric power production.

By Oct. 1, Massachusetts power distribution companies must jointly solicit clean-energy developers to deliver up to 18.9 million megawatt hours of electricity. That coverts to 2,400 megawatts or 2.4 gigawatts, industry officials said. That’s enough to power about 750,000 homes.

The bill is pending before the House Ways and Means Committee after the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee recommended it, reported state Rep. John Keenan, D-Salem.

“There’s a wonderful opportunity for everyone to have a piece of the energy bill that makes a lot of sense,” said Matthew Morrissey, New Bedford Wind Energy Center managing director.

In addition to the 2.4 gigawatts targeted for hydroelectric power, which would be transmitted from Canada, Morrissey said wind energy advocates will submit an amendment to this clean energy bill.

Their efforts coincided with a widely supported National Wildlife Federation report issued Thursday that said wind energy generated off New England’s coast could produce more than 8,000 megawatts — enough to power about 2.5 million homes.

The draft legislation Morrissey supplied asks that — in addition to required hydro procurements — distribution companies would need to “conduct four joint solicitations for proposals from offshore wind energy developers.”

The competitive bid process would be for 200 megawatts a year staggered over four years to total 800 megawatts, enough to provide electricity for about 250,000 homes.

“It is a modest size,” said Morrissey, New Bedford’s former economic development director. This week, he met at the Statehouse with the SouthCoast legislative delegation, including Rep. Patricia Haddad, D-Somerset.

Like other leaders, he noted the clean energy that wind power would bring. He also emphasized job opportunities that could benefit Massachusetts.

Haddad said her regional colleagues unanimously support the amended version to add specific wind-development requirements. Without the amendment, the bill features just a few sentences at the end stating that agencies “shall study how to best advance the development of (off-shore) wind generation opportunities …”


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