Vineyard Wind sweetens pot
An offshore wind energy company with plans to bring connector cables ashore on Cape Cod says it will spend $2 million to train locals for new careers to help position Massachusetts as the leader of the nation’s offshore wind industry workforce, but only if it wins a contract to provide wind energy to electric distribution companies.
Through its new “Wind Workforce” initiative, Vineyard Wind would partner with Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable, Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay and other schools to train students for jobs needed to staff its wind farm proposed for the waters south of Martha’s Vineyard, said Erich Stephens, the company’s chief development officer.
The initiative would train students so they are qualified to fill as many as 1,000 jobs related to the engineering, design, construction and operation of the project by 2022, but the ultimate goal is to give Massachusetts the highest skilled wind energy workforce on the East Coast, Stephens said.
“We wanted to start to build the educational infrastructure and educational capacity, so for other projects that come along after ours, there’s a ready workforce that’s got the training,” he said.
Massachusetts was one of the first East Coast states to implement wind energy legislation, giving residents here a chance to get critical experience and training ahead of workers elsewhere, Stephens said.
“There’s a little bit of a race going on between the different states on the East Coast, so by accelerating our project timeline and coupling that with this Windward Workforce, we think we’re going to be able to give Massachusetts a big leg up on that race.” he said.
Vineyard Wind is one of three offshore wind energy companies to bid on contracts of up to 800 megawatts of power with the state’s electric distribution companies. The three companies, including Bay State Wind and Revolution Wind, expect to hear by April whether their bids have been chosen for negotiation by the electric companies that would buy the wind energy. Each company has promised jobs — anywhere from 1,200 to 2,500 over the life of the projects — but have declined to disclose the price of the energy they would sell to the utilities. They have proposed various means of dealing with the vagaries of consumer demand for electricity and the unpredictability of wind speeds.
Launching Vineyard Wind’s $2 million jobs initiative hinges on whether the company wins the contract.
“Wind Workforce starts off as soon as we get that award,” Stephens said. “We’re going to be putting people to work very quickly.”
Vineyard Wind is in the permitting process with state and federal agencies and plans to start construction in 2019, Stephens said.
The proposed project has drawn a mix of responses from Cape residents.
Residents and home associations have voiced concerns that its connector project, which proposes to bring three underwater electricity cables from the wind farm, through state waters, to make landfall in either West Yarmouth or Centerville, and then north to a substation in Barnstable, would pose environmental hazards, particularly to Lewis Bay, where the Yarmouth cable would come ashore.
Others, including state Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, and state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Woods Hole, have voiced support for the project as a much-needed source of renewable energy.