Massachusetts Harbors Offshore Wind Dreams

Massachusetts officials this week did what officials everywhere like to do: shoveled.

There’s no offshore wind power in Massachusetts yet (or anywhere in the U.S., for that matter), but the state is already anticipating an industry developing around the long-sought renewable energy source. An abundance of suits, spades in hand, thus gathered for a groundbreaking at the Marine Commerce Terminal project in New Bedford, where offshore wind magic is supposed to happen.

image via Massachusetts Clean Energy Center

image via Massachusetts Clean Energy Center

Also known as the South Terminal, the project is intended to boost New Bedford’s shipping and cargo capacity and “support clean energy initiatives significant to not only this region, but our Commonwealth and country,” Gov. Deval Patrick said in a statement.

That would be a reference to the Cape Wind project – for starters. Massachusetts envisions the terminal as a vital cog in an East Coast offshore wind industry that the Obama administration has been pushing to get going:

The terminal, which will be located inside New Bedford Harbor and protected by the hurricane barrier, will be in close proximity to Cape Wind and the offshore wind planning areas along the East Coast that are under consideration for development. The federal government is leading an offshore wind permitting and leasing process in nine states, including Massachusetts, along the Atlantic Coast. That process is expected to lead to the construction of multiple projects, many of which could make use of the terminal, which has an estimated cost of $100 million.

There are a lot of assumptions contained in that statement. That Cape Wind will happen is one, but after a decade or so of fighting over the 130-turbine project, that seems a very good bet. But will it stage from New Bedford? In recent months, Cape Wind has flirted with Quonset Point, in Rhode Island, as a possible partner.

Not to worry, Massachusetts officials say.

From the Boston Globe: “I am absolutely convinced that New Bedford will be the primary staging port for Cape Wind and ­future developments that are not Cape Wind-related,” Richard J. Sullivan Jr., secretary of energy and environmental affairs, said at a legislative hearing examining a big spending package that includes $24 million for the South Terminal work.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.