Offshore wind staging facility to open on New Bedford waterfront
NEW BEDFORD – City officials announced on Wednesday that the Eversource Energy and Sprague site on MacArthur Boulevard – parts of which have remained unused for years – will become a staging site for offshore wind development, in largely thanks to a group of local investors.
This is the second New Bedford facility announced in as many weeks to be reallocated to support the nascent offshore wind industry, which is expected to provide electricity to Massachusetts by 2023.
Last week, authorities announced that a former packaging facility on Herman Melville Boulevard, also near the waterfront, would be redeveloped into an offshore wind training facility with classrooms and furniture for technical training and safety training.
Cannon Street Holdings LLC (Cannon Street being the name of the site’s decommissioned power plant) is a group of four main investors: Andrew Saunders, John Lees (founder of Mar-Lees Seafood), Maurice Gulson and Lou Cabral.
Officials have called the project a public-private partnership, as the development will involve the New Bedford Redevelopment Authority, which will undertake planning in the coming months for the section the city will own.
Saunders said that morning that he had just visited the site with an interested developer. He also said they have entered into numerous confidentiality agreements and are in active negotiations with offshore wind companies.
The sale between investors, Eversource and Sprague is on hold, but Saunders said he expects it to be final in the third quarter of 2021.
Part of the site will also be developed to extend the unloading of seafood for the port.
“We want more here because I think in the long run it will help the fishing industry,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell. “Having an investment group that has a history with the fishing industry is really important in this regard.”
Doubling the capacity of offshore wind power
The large site has been underutilized for decades since the plant was decommissioned in 1992, with limited utility operations in the years that followed.
According to the city, this redevelopment will double the capacity of New Bedford for offshore wind.
The 29-acre New Bedford Marine Trade Terminal, operated by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, currently has leases with Vineyard Wind and Mayflower Wind.
Vineyard Wind has signed a lease to use the terminal as the primary staging and deployment base for the construction and installation of its project. It is expected to start in January 2023 and end in 2024 at a rate of $ 6 million per year, according to a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
According to the state, the leases commit this terminal to full-time offshore wind activity until at least 2027.
The Eversource and Sprague property are about 35 nautical miles from offshore wind concession areas, according to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. An assessment of the site’s reuse in 2017 included a map showing its proximity to offshore wind concession areas. The document said it has a “distinct advantage” of having deep water and no air restrictions.
Mitchell said it was taking years and the project capitalizes on the city’s maritime strength and access to the port.
The mayor, along with local and state leaders, criticized the state’s bidding process for offshore wind, which involves power distribution companies such as Eversource.
“This has resulted in little permanent industrial investment in Southeast Massachusetts,” a letter, written by Mitchell, said to the Baker administration.
The city is now getting this investment from people with close ties to the area.
Jim Hunt, Eversource’s executive vice president for corporate relations and sustainability, said in a statement the company is proud to partner with the city to help it achieve its mission of redeveloping the frontier. sea.
Achieve net zero emissions targets
Many officials on Wednesday stressed the role this future site can play in light of the targets set by the Biden and Baker administrations for offshore wind deployment and net zero emissions.
Judy Chang, Under Secretary of Energy for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said the keystone to achieving these goals is offshore wind.
“We need to capitalize on our marine history as well as our capacity and proximity to all rental areas for offshore wind,” Chang said. “We cannot achieve any of these goals without developing our port infrastructure. I see port infrastructure as an enabling element of this energy future, of this transition to a clean economy. “
Officials also noted that Governor Charlie Baker has proposed a plan to allocate $ 100 million in COVID-19 relief funds to invest in port infrastructure for offshore wind development. State officials named Port New Bedford as a potential beneficiary during a presentation last week on potential initiatives with relief funds.
City expects to buy a few acres for a small fee
Mitchell pointed out how this type of site development would make New Bedford a more competitive city, attract investment and create jobs, and ultimately bring the site “back to life” as a “centerpiece” of the maritime economy. New Bedford.
He said they were negotiating a deal with the group of investors to acquire four acres of the site for just $ 1.
Previous proposals for the site included an aquarium and a casino. Contrary to these ideas, Mitchell said the proposal is backed by millions of dollars as demand for offshore wind development increases under the Biden administration.
Standard-Times reporter Anastasia E. Lennon can be reached at [email protected] You can follow her on Twitter at @ aelennon1. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.