By ARIEL WITTENBERG
NEW BEDFORD — Cape Wind has signed a lease agreement with the state to use South Terminal for the staging and construction of its 130-turbine offshore wind project, marking a significant milestone in the city’s efforts to become a hub for the offshore wind industry.
The offshore wind developer is expected to officially announce the news Friday at 11 a.m. with Gov.Deval Patrick at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Wind Technology Testing Center in Charlestown.
“Cape Wind is going to be built out of New Bedford, not Rhode Island, that’s the bottom line,” Patrick told The Standard-Times Thursday.
Cape Wind will file paperwork with the federal government early next week to modify its Construction and Operations Plan with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in order to deploy the wind project from New Bedford, company officials said.
Cape Wind had previously signed lease options with both South Terminal, now formally called the Massachusetts Marine Commerce Terminal, and Rhode Island’s Quonset Point.
Mayor Jon Mitchell called the step “a historic moment” in the city’s efforts to bring a new age of economic development by aligning itself with the offshore wind industry.
“New Bedford has been preparing itself for the launch of this industry for a long time and we are more ready than any port in America to become a center of the offshore wind industry,” he said. “Our approach has always been what’s in the city’s long-term best interests, that’s why offshore wind has been the subject of our relentless focus.”
Later Thursday night, Mitchell — who said he was not invited to speak at today’s announcement — also said he is unable to attend.
Sen. Mark Montigny, meanwhile, took exception to the exclusion of New Bedford in the name change. “I’ll be looking at drafting a bill ASAP” to restore the city’s name to the terminal, Montigny said Thursday night.
The name change also sparked discussion at the New Bedford City Council Thursday night where councilors unanimously approved a motion to “strenuously object” to the change and restore the terminal to “its rightful” name as the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal.
For his part, Cape Wind President Jim Gordon said the lease agreement shows that he is confident South Terminal, which is still under construction, will be completed in time for Cape Wind to begin using it in January.
“We believe that we will be the first of many offshore wind projects to deploy out of this facility,” Gordon said. “We know there are a lot of skilled tradesmen in the region and people who are ready to roll up their sleeves and work with us.”
South Terminal, which is three months away from completion, was designed by Massachusetts Clean Energy Center specifically to accommodate the weight of offshore wind turbines and the cranes required to put them together. The facility on average will be able to support 4,100 pounds per square foot and up to 20,485 pounds per square foot in certain places. It is being built on an accelerated schedule in order to accommodate Cape Wind’s timeline.
Cape Wind will pay a total of $4.5 million in rent to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which owns the 28-acre facility, for two years. During that time, Cape Wind will be the only operator of the facility and the terms of lease allow for two one-year extensions.
Cape Wind has said that the assembly, staging and ocean construction of the project will create 600 to 1,000 jobs. Once in operation, the project is expected to employ 150 people, at least 50 of whom are expected to be based in Falmouth to do maintenance on the Nantucket Sound turbines.
The lease agreement is significant not just for Cape Wind but for New Bedford and the commonwealth’s future involvement in the offshore wind industry. City officials have long stated that being the first port to stage an offshore wind farm will help the city to attract future projects and industry manufacturers.
“This is a great day for Cape Wind, the offshore wind industry, and especially for the City of New Bedford,” New Bedford Wind Energy Center Director Matthew Morrissey said.
“This will be the nation’s first offshore wind farm and that’s important economically from an environmental perspective and from a symbolic perspective,” he said. “There is a first-mover’s advantage.”
Follow Ariel Wittenberg on Twitter @awittenberg_SCT
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By ARIEL WITTENBERG