Report: New Bedford's South Terminal is the wind beneath state's wings

By Ariel Wittenberg

July 11, 2014

Massachusetts and Rhode Island are “leading the way” for offshore wind in the United States, according to a report released Thursday by the National Wildlife Federation.

“By every measure, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are clearly leading America’s pursuit of offshore wind power,” according to the report. “Both states have shown considerable leadership to date in spurring offshore wind development — efforts which are poised to pay off as the nation’s first projects begin construction off their shores in the coming year.”

The report, which outlines efforts to promote offshore wind in every state on the Atlantic Coast, cites New Bedford’s South Terminal as one reason why Massachusetts is at the head of the pack. It lists South Terminal as one of three “considerable investments” by the state in offshore wind development. The other two are the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Wind Technology Testing Center in Charlestown and stakeholder engagement and data collection efforts led by MassCEC.

“Massachusetts has blazed the trail in America’s pursuit of offshore wind power,” according to the report.

On Thursday, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said the construction of South Terminal is a “critical investment” for the city by the state.

“We look to the future of the offshore wind industry here,” Mitchell said. “We believe the industry holds the potential to enable us to rebuild the economic base of greater New Bedford.”

But Mitchell said the city is concerned about a bill currently before the state Legislature that would let hydropower generated in dams count as “renewable” energy for utilities needing to purchase long-term contracts with renewable resources.

“Our view is that the bill will lead to power exclusively produced by Canadian (dams),” Mitchell said. “We want the bill amended to help create a pipeline of offshore wind activity in years to come.”

Catherine Bowes, senior manager for climate and energy from the National Wildlife Federation, agreed, saying that while federal initiatives to help offshore wind are important, state help is critical.

“Federal tax incentives alone do not get projects built,” she said. “Projects need two things to be built: offshore leases and contracts to sell the power they produce. Advancing those contracts is what is at the hands of the state, and that’s a critical next step for New England leaders.”

Massachusetts and Rhode Island are in a race to see which will be home to the first offshore wind farm in the country. In Rhode Island, Deepwater Wind has plans to develop a five-turbine farm off the coast of Block Island. In Massachusetts, Cape Wind is on track to begin construction of its 130-turbine wind farm for Nantucket Sound.

Other wind projects are in the works offshore Massachusetts and Rhode Island as well.

Last year, a 164,000-acre area of ocean southwest of Martha’s Vineyard was auctioned for $3.8 million to Deepwater Wind. In June, the federal government said it was moving ahead with plans to auction another area located 12 miles off of the Vineyard that covers 742,000 acres.

In addition to outlining states’ progress in supporting offshore wind, the NWF report also emphasizes the benefits of generating energy offshore. According to the report, offshore wind could power 5 million average American households with pollution-free power produced at times when energy is most in demand. Looking to Europe as an example, NWF writes that an American offshore wind industry will also “spur the creation of good-paying jobs”

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