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And the winner is... both. State awards 2 new offshore wind contracts

New England for Offshore Wind

The offshore wind industry caught quite a breeze on Friday, as the state announced it will award two new contracts for wind farms.

Together, the awards double the amount of offshore wind energy set to feed the state’s power grid in the coming years. And they likely mean thousands of job opportunities and port infrastructure upgrades in Fall River, Salem and Brayton Point in Somerset.

Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Kathleen Theoharides, made the announcement at the state’s Wind Technology Testing Center in Charlestown. She said offshore wind helps Massachusetts on two fronts: “It’s the centerpiece of our climate strategy. It’s also an economic engine.”

Under the new agreement, Vineyard Wind will build out an additional 1200 megawatts of generating capacity, and Mayflower Wind will add 400 megawatts. Both wind farms will be located more than 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Combined, the 1600 megawatts of wind power will offset 2.7 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, according to Theoharides. That’s the equivalent of removing more than half a million cars from the road.

The two developers also committed to a range of economic development projects, including port infrastructure upgrades and workforce training programs.

Mayflower Wind will construct a port in Fall River, just south of the Braga Bridge, to service its offshore wind farms. The company will also commission a crew transfer vessel from Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding in Somerset, and it will devote at least $27 million to the South Coast Community Foundation. The money will help train South Coast workers for jobs in the offshore wind industry.

Mayflower’s CEO, Michael Brown, said its wind farm will be a major employer on the South Coast. “We are aiming to create up to 14,000 jobs during the construction of this project.” Brown did not elaborate on how many permanent jobs the wind farm would provide after the construction phase.

Vineyard Wind will build an offshore wind servicing port in Salem and a manufacturing facility at Brayton Point in Somerset, according to CEO Lars Pedersen. “We wanted to deliver a proposal that delivered benefits of offshore wind to the whole of the Commonwealth.”

The Salem port will provide 900 job-years, according to Vineyard Wind’s estimates.

At Brayton Point, Vineyard Wind will build a factory to produce sub-sea electrical cable, which will transmit power generated by the offshore turbines. “It will be hundreds of workers working in that facility not only supplying our projects, but supplying the entire global offshore wind market,” said Pedersen. Vineyard Wind will partner with an Italian cable manufacturer, Prysmian Group, to build the factory.

Pedersen called the factory a source of “long-term job creation.” Unlike offshore wind construction jobs, which are temporary, manufacturing jobs could provide decades-long careers. The cable factory will be the first offshore wind manufacturing facility built in Massachusetts.

The factory will mark a major transformation of Brayton Point. The site currently hosts a scrap metal operation, which local residents say is a source of toxic metal dust and noise pollution. State Attorney General Maura Healy has issued notice of intent to sue the scrap companies for environmental violations. Previously, Brayton Point held New England’s largest coal-fired power plant, until it was decommissioned in 2017.

Prior to Friday’s announcement, it was not clear that the state would award more than one offshore wind contract after reviewing bids from multiple developers. “The final decisions were made this week, which is about as much as I’m going to say about the review process,” said Theoharides.

The state has now awarded four contracts for offshore wind farms—two each to Vineyard Wind and Mayflower Wind. Vineyard Wind recently broke ground on construction of the state’s first offshore wind farm.

Daniel covers the South Coast for WCAI. He comes to the station from Minnesota Public Radio, where he reported on science and the environment. Daniel has produced audio documentaries on a motley mix of topics, from the science of sewage to the history of automobile license plates. He holds a PhD in climate change ecology from the University of Minnesota. Daniel is a 2021-22 Report For America corps member.