Plugging into a new industry
It’s been called the “Louisiana of the East Coast” and the “Saudi Arabia of North America.” Massachusetts is poised to become the hub of the nascent offshore wind industry.
On April 23, the state’s electric distribution companies — Eversource, National Grid and Unitil MA — will select up to two bids from three companies to provide 800 megawatts of wind energy and related transmission infrastructure. In the running are Deepwater Wind, Orsted and Vineyard Wind, one or two of whom will build enormous turbines south of Martha’s Vineyard.
Only one of those companies will provide direct benefits — economic and otherwise — to Cape Cod. And that’s Vineyard Wind.
According to a UMass Dartmouth study, Vineyard Wind’s proposal to build an 800-MW offshore wind project would create more than 1,000 jobs, including local jobs as the company seeks to run its cable across Nantucket Sound and connect it to an electric substation in Barnstable.
Because the company has chosen the Mid Cape as the place where its cable will make landfall, it will be subject to Host Community Agreement negotiations, which means millions of dollars will be available to communities that host connection infrastructure.
Furthermore, using information on projected expenses and staffing provided by Vineyard Wind, the Public Policy Center at UMass has determined that the wind farm would generate between $14.7 million and $17 million per year in state and local taxes.
It would create between 1,180 and 1,633 direct jobs, with the vast majority in planning and construction. The study predicts that 80 or 81 jobs would last for the project’s 25-year life span. Most of the long-term operations and maintenance jobs would be based in Vineyard Haven.
Vineyard Wind officials have said they will enforce a “local first” employment requirement for all lead project contractors, requiring that they actively seek Massachusetts residents as candidates for every position. The policy represents Vineyard Wind’s commitment that the Cape and the Southcoast benefit from employment opportunities related to the project.
Construction of Vineyard Wind would begin as early as 2019, and the turbines would be fully operational in 2021, according to Vineyard Wind CEO Lars Thaaning Pedersen.
In terms of other economic benefits, Vineyard Wind has committed $15 million for three initiatives that will directly benefit the Cape, including up to $10 million in projects and initiatives to accelerate the development of the offshore wind supply chain, businesses, and infrastructure.
Another $2 million will be committed to recruit, mentor, and train Massachusetts workers, particularly those in southeastern Massachusetts, for careers in the commonwealth’s new offshore wind industry. The Windward Workforce program will partner with vocational schools, community colleges, and others.
And $3 million will be deposited into a Marine Mammals and Wind Fund, which is expected to develop innovative methods and technologies to enhance protection for marine mammals as the Massachusetts and U.S. offshore wind industry continues to grow.
The biggest direct benefit for the Cape is likely grid reliability and resilience. As the recent storms proved yet again, the Cape is home to the most vulnerable portion of the state’s electric grid. In terms of resilience, Vineyard Wind will offer two key benefits for the Cape.
First, it will provide up to 800 MW of electricity, or enough to power more than 400,000 homes, directly to Cape Cod.
Second, Vineyard Wind’s proposal earmarks millions of dollars for direct investment into local microgrid storage and resiliency measures. Vineyard Wind’s “Resiliency and Affordability Fund” would help low-income ratepayers and provide battery storage for Cape and Islands’ communities. The program calls for a minimum $1 million investment each year for 15 years into distributed battery energy storage hosted by local communities where it is needed most. The initiative would provide credits directly onto the electric bills of low-income ratepayers’ on the Cape and Islands while also funding energy storage and solar projects that provide back-up power and energy-cost savings directly to public buildings like schools, hospitals and municipal buildings.
Finally, as Pedersen said during a recent meeting with the Times’ editorial board, only one of the three bidders has taken steps to ensure that it is a truly local project delivering local benefits. From local workforce development to local outreach with such groups as the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, and the Cape Light Compact, Vineyard Wind has demonstrated a clear commitment to deliver many benefits to Cape Cod.