Renewable Energy Group Sees a Bright Future for SouthCoast

By Grant Welker
Herald News Staff Reporter

Hopes for large-scale job creation in the Fall River and New Bedford areas often involve offshore clean-energy projects that would require manufacturing wind turbines and other equipment in a new green-collar industry.
On Thursday, a renewable-energy consortium based at the Advanced Technology and Manufacturing Center held a conference with more than 100 representatives from colleges as far away as Florida and companies as far away as Europe.
The New England Marine Renewable Energy Center, which includes professors and students from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, hopes to forge partnerships that would take advantage of the area’s natural resources for clean energy and create perhaps thousands of new jobs.
“It’s a huge opportunity for this region,” said Paul Vigeant, the UMass Dartmouth assistant chancellor for economic development. Fall River and New Bedford are “prime candidates” for being bases for huge manufacturing operations of turbines and related equipment, said John Miller, the Marine Renewable Energy Center executive director.
Using clean-energy projects in Europe as a model, officials predict job creation figures could be in the thousands, Miller said.
The potential energy creation from the area’s waters is certainly huge. The peak energy demand in New England is about 28 gigawatts, Miller said, while wind turbines could provide at least 100 gigawatts of electricity. Waves could create another 10 to 30 gigawatts, he said.
That means, at least in the short-term, a lot of scientists and engineers are studying potential sites, Vigeant said. In the long run, it means a demand for carpenters, electricians, welders and other manufacturing jobs.
“We would be a natural spot to be a center of ocean power,” said Maggie Merrill, MREC’s communications manager. It isn’t a case of “build it and they will come,” Vigeant said, because the natural resources already exist and are close to high-population areas.
New England doesn’t have oil fields, but it can claim a very important resource of green energy. “We do have the ocean,” Miller said.
One potential project being studied by the Marine Renewable Energy Center is a facility that would use tides in Muskeget Channel between Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket to turn turbine blades under the water. Though a facility there is still years off, the site has high potential, MREC officials have said.
The Muskeget Channel project and others received a $950,000 federal grant in June. The consortium also receives funding from UMass and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.
The ATMC founded the Marine Renewable Energy Center in spring 2008 through funding from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative based on the ATMC’s proposal with officials from Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The consortium also includes the University of Rhode Island, University of Connecticut and Roger Williams University, among others.
Thursday’s conference included presentations on wave energy from colleges including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tidal energy from the University of Texas and others, wind energy from the University of Florida, and other presentations from a British energy consulting firm and other companies.
MREC already has high hopes for next year’s conference. Merrill said it could be held as a two-day event in Boston during Clean Energy Week in November.
E-mail Grant Welker at
Posted Oct 15, 2009 @ 11:45 PM
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