New Bedford named staging port for Cape Wind

By Charis Anderson

The port of New Bedford has been chosen as the site for a multimillion-dollar facility to support the installation of offshore wind projects including Cape Wind, which has selected the new terminal as its staging area, Gov. Deval Patrick said Tuesday.

The New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, which will be built over about 20 acres in the South Terminal area of the port, is expected to bring hundreds of jobs to the region and thrust New Bedford and the state to the forefront of the offshore renewable industry, according to state officials.

“This project really positions us to be a major player in offshore wind for projects all along the Atlantic coast,” said Patrick in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.

“It feels really exciting to see something coming together that’s going to create thousands of jobs, that’s going to establish us as a ‘first mover’ in the clean tech sector, particularly offshore wind.”

Patrick is scheduled to announce the project Wednesday afternoon at a press conference in New Bedford, where he will be joined by Rep. Barney Frank, Mayor Scott W. Lang and other elected officials.

The terminal will consist of a 1,200 linear foot bulkhead with deep-water access and about 20 acres of surface space, according to state officials.Plans for the terminal are still in the engineering and design phase, but the cost of construction is expected to be about $35 million and will be financed with a mix of state, federal and city resources, as well as operating revenues, according to state officials.

Permitting for the project is under way now, and construction on the facility is expected to start by the end of the year, according to Ian Bowles, the state secretary for energy and environmental affairs.

About 200 jobs will be created during the facility’s construction, according to a spokesman for Bowles’ office.

Once completed, the terminal will also be available for various marine and commercial activities when it is not being used for offshore wind projects, Bowles said.

“I think this facility is vitally important, and I think it’s a major win for Massachusetts,” said Bowles. “It’s going to be a multi-use marine cargo facility and ultimately serve, over the long term, other offshore wind projects as those … projects come on.”

Cape Wind, the nation’s first offshore wind project, and its turbine supplier, Siemens, will use the terminal as a support and staging facility while the 130-turbine wind farm is being constructed in Nantucket Sound, according to state and Cape Wind officials.

The Cape Wind project is expected to create between 600 and 1,000 jobs during its construction and manufacturing phases, according to Cape Wind officials.

“We envision New Bedford and the region becoming the North American hub for the emerging offshore wind industry,” said Jim Gordon, president of Cape Wind Associates. “We’re just pleased that Cape Wind could help anchor this new port.”

State utility regulators are still reviewing a power-purchasing contract between Cape Wind and National Grid; a decision is expected next month.

However, the investment in the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal is not contingent on approval of the contract by the state Department of Public Utilities, according to a spokesman for the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

“There’s no doubt that the investment at this time helps assure that the jobs for Cape Wind stay in Massachusetts,” said Patrick.

“But the importance of the investment goes beyond Cape Wind, because this is a facility that is ready to do what lots of other states want to do offshore.”

Cape Wind is just the beginning, agreed Gordon: “There are going to be many projects like Cape Wind that emerge off of our coastline,” he said.

This new facility places New Bedford and the region in a position to capture many of the “green” jobs that will be created as the offshore renewable industry continues to grow, according to Gordon.

Frank agreed, pointing out that the facility and its association with Cape Wind will help draw attention to the region and to its skilled workforce.

“I think it’s very important that southeastern Massachusetts is now becoming a major center of production for one of the most important new technologies,” said Frank, D-Mass.

As the U.S. offshore renewable industry matures, clean tech companies currently headquartered in Europe will be looking to expand to North America, said Matthew Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council.

The new terminal in combination with the Cape Wind project make the city a very attractive location for those companies, he said.

“The construction of this facility in the city of New Bedford means one thing: jobs,” said Morrissey. “This project puts a global spotlight directly on New Bedford.”

For the city, the project creates new employment opportunities and expands the tax base while creating new port infrastructure that will allow for tremendous flexibility, said Lang.

“The whole idea is that we’re building in a way that allows us to continue to present New Bedford as the number one functional working waterfront on the East Coast,” he said.
October 19, 2010 8:19 PM

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