Report: Offshore Wind Power for the Commonwealth Finally Within Reach

Environment Massachusetts

July 10, 2014  New Bedford, MA – Over 1.5 million acres off the Atlantic coast have been designated for offshore wind power development, enough to produce over 16,000 megawatts of electricity and power over five million homes, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation. Catching the Wind: State Actions Needed to Seize the Golden Opportunity of Atlantic Offshore Wind Power  also contains a new analysis showing how the strong, consistent winds off of southern New England can provide power to Massachusetts right when we need it most – reducing wholesale electricity prices and local pollution.

“American offshore wind power is finally within reach,” said Catherine Bowes, senior manager for climate and energy at the National Wildlife Federation. “With over 8,000 megawatts of clean, local power currently available off Massachusetts’ shores, it is a critical moment for the Commonwealth’s leaders to seize this golden opportunity and create a clean energy future powered by American workers that can protect our wildlife and communities from the dangers of climate change.” 

Catching the Wind reviews progress to date along the coast in pursuit of offshore wind power, finding Massachusetts clearly leading the way with Cape Wind on track for construction in 2015 and significant investments by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center in offshore wind research, technology, and infrastructure such as the Marine Commerce Terminal in New Bedford – America’s first port facility under construction to deploy offshore wind projects. Looking forward, Massachusetts leaders face critical decisions to ensure the long term market certainty for offshore wind power needed to spur a pipeline of project development that can fully realize the clean energy potential off our shores. 

“With the Commonwealth’s support, New Bedford is now poised to play a central role in the nation’s burgeoning offshore wind energy industry,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell. “Construction is underway on a first-of-its-kind $100 million port facility specially designed to support the staging and assembly of offshore wind turbines. There is a tremendous opportunity to build a national industry and grow jobs not only for our city but across the region by adding offshore wind power to the huge Canadian hydro bill currently under consideration.” 

“I have one of the two last remaining coal plants in the state in my district. We have two of the largest wind energy areas in the nation right off our shores,” said Massachusetts State Representative Patricia Haddad of Somerset, Speaker Pro Tem. “If we are going to meet our climate change milestones we better create jobs and more opportunities for tax revenue in the process.” 

Highlights of Catching the Wind include:

  • Areas Already Designated for Offshore Wind Development Could Power Over 5 Million American Homes. Over half of these areas are off the coast of southern New England and currently available to state energy planners. What’s needed now is continued action by Massachusetts leaders to drive offshore wind markets and spur critical project contracts forward.
  • Offshore Wind Power Could Save Millions as Part of a Diverse Energy Portfolio. Diversifying Massachusetts’ energy mix is critical for protecting ratepayers from price spikes in the volatile fossil fuel markets. The report highlights a new 2014 study finding a $350 million per year reduction in wholesale electricity prices from adding 1,200 MW of offshore wind energy to New England’s grid.
  • Offshore Wind Power Will Spark Massive Job Creation in the United States. In Europe, 70 offshore wind projects across 10 countries are currently supporting over 58,000 jobs in both coastal and inland communities. Today, offshore wind power is a booming global industry with over $20 billion in annual investments projected for the next 10 years.
  • Offshore Wind Power is an Environmentally Responsible Energy Choice: As decades of experience in Europe indicates, strong environmental requirements can ensure that offshore wind power is sited, constructed, and operated in a manner that protects coastal and marine wildlife. This immense clean energy source offers an incredible opportunity to reduce pollution that threatens current and future generations of people and wildlife in Massachusetts. 

“The vast wind resource off the Massachusetts coast can provide tremendous amounts of pollution-free energy; with no fuel costs,” said Rob Sargent, on behalf of Environment Massachusetts. “The strong commitment to offshore wind shown by the Patrick Administration, state legislators and local officials, like New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, has established a strong foundation that helps Bay-Staters meet our energy needs while tackling the carbon pollution that is altering our climate.”   

 “Superstorm Sandy devastated the coasts of New York and New Jersey with schools, hospitals, businesses and transportation shut down. If it had hit Massachusetts, the South Coast would be under the Atlantic along with 82 million square feet of Boston. It can and will happen here…soon,” said George Bachrach, President of the Environmental League of Massachusetts. “We must move more aggressively from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy, and Massachusetts can lead the nation in developing offshore wind, creating a new local industry and jobs, and furthering energy independence from the volatile pricing of ExxonMobil and OPEC.”

“The offshore wind industry is a big win for our business, and many others in Massachusetts, because it provides energy diversification and new business opportunities,” said David Slutz, President and CEO of Precix Inc – a proud member of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts. “Precix spends over $2M per year on energy – energy we use to convert raw materials to finished fuel, brake, aircraft engine and landing gear and energy sealing systems.”

“There could not be a more opportune time to take advantage of the tremendous wind energy resources off our coasts,” said Sue Reid, Massachusetts Director of Conservation Law Foundation. “Offshore wind has unparalleled benefits in displacing the dirtiest, least efficient and most costly electric power plants on the system today – lowering wholesale electric prices as a result. Massachusetts leaders can and should seize this opportunity to reap the environmental, labor and economic benefits that offshore wind can deliver.”  

Thanks to the leadership of the federal government, forward-thinking leaders from states like Massachusetts, resolute wind industry pioneers, and engaged stakeholders, this transformational clean energy source is finally within reach. Catching the Wind highlights key progress made to date along the coast, finding a strong correlation between proactive state efforts and tangible steps forward in advancing offshore wind power.  

In five recommendations, the report challenges Massachusetts’ leaders to move forward with the following key actions in order to build the long term market certainty needed to launch a long term market for offshore wind power: 

  1. 1.     Set a bold goal for offshore wind power in Massachusetts’ energy plan.
  2. 2.     Take action to ensure a competitive market for offshore wind power by passing and implementing policies to directly advance offshore wind power and reduce pollution across the electricity sector, pursuing regional market-building opportunities, and supporting key federal incentives.
  3. 3.     Advance critical contracts for offshore wind projects, including facilitating and approving necessary power purchase contracts and rate recovery proposals and pursuing regional procurement opportunities.
  4. 4.     Ensure an efficient, environmentally responsible leasing process, working closely with the federal government and key experts and stakeholders to ensure transparency and strong protections for coastal and marine wildlife as offshore wind development moves forward.
  5. 5.     Invest in key research, initiatives, and infrastructure helpful for advancing offshore wind development including baseline environmental data, stakeholder engagement initiatives, opportunities to maximize local supply chain and job creation, and upgrades to transmission or port facilities. 

“The New England Maritime Trades Council has members throughout the state and region who have the skills necessary to get to work in the off shore wind industry today,” said Gerard Dhooge, CEO of the Boston and New England Maritime Trades Council. “The Council has a labor agreement with the nations first off shore wind project, Cape Wind, that requires the negotiation of a Project Labor Agreement and we look forward to the opportunity to extend that agreement to the future projects.”  

“A warming climate is bad for business. Over reliance on one type of energy source is bad for business.  Today, New England over 60% of our energy comes from natural gas. This is a problem for business now and most certainly tomorrow,” said Tony Sapienza, CEO of Joseph Abboud Manufacturing. “The development of off shore wind as a piece of business’s energy mix in New England is critical.  We can’t wait.  Let’s get it going now.”

“The waters off New England are the Saudi Arabia of wind. Massachusetts alone has the potential to provide 8 gigawatts of wind energy,” said Jack Clarke, Director of Public Policy and Government Relations at Mass Audubon. “With Cape Wind permitted, largely financed and needless litigation over, we expect steel in the water next year kicking off the offshore renewable energy industry in America.”