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Mass. Seeking Bids for 3rd Offshore Wind Farm, But Will Bidders Bring the Jobs?

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Sarah Mizes-Tan
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Observers of the Massachusetts offshore wind industry are getting a look at the state’s latest request for proposals, issued May 7 for a third offshore wind farm.

Westport-based offshore wind consultant Paul Vigeant, former director of the New Bedford Wind Energy Center, said one thing to watch is how much emphasis the state puts on economic development.

“The land-based jobs [are] where the action’s at,” he said.

Jobs in the industry include manufacturing of turbine components — which has not been done in the United States — assembly, installation, and long-term operations and maintenance.

Vigeant said New Jersey and New York have provided incentives that attracted land-based jobs.

Unlike the previous Massachusetts RFPs, the latest requires wind developers who make promises on economic development to put them in a memorandum of understanding or similar document signed with a government entity.

But New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said the requirement makes no material improvement over past contracts in terms of incentives for creating jobs.

“Massachusetts, for a variety of reasons, has decided to play a laissez-faire approach when it comes to industry investment,” he said.

There are two things driving the problem, according to Mitchell: The state has a price cap on offshore wind power, which limits the companies’ ability to recoup the cost of job investments; and the RFPs don’t disclose to the bidders how much economic benefits will be worth in the competitive bidding process.

Still, he said New Bedford is ready to make the most of its opportunities in offshore wind. Turbine parts for Vineyard Wind will be assembled on the New Bedford waterfront and loaded onto ships for installation about 15 miles off Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

The state’s energy and environment secretary, Katie Theoharides, said Vineyard Wind and Mayflower Wind are bringing Massachusetts more than $130 million in economic benefits.

For the third project, proposals can be up to 1,600 megawatts, which is about double the size of each of the others.

And for the first time, bidders must submit a plan for diversity, equity, and inclusion that applies to both its workforce and its suppliers.

Based on current technology, a 1,600-megawatt project would probably require between 114 and 123 turbines. The turbines have gotten larger and more powerful over time.

Vineyard Wind 1 is designed to produce 800 megawatts of power, enough for more than 400,000 homes, with 62 turbines.