Long Time Coming

Offshore Wind eEvolution

Offshore Wind Revolution

While Rhode Island’s Block Island wind farm became the first commercial offshore wind in the US to be built and operate, that 30MW project is extremely small and contained. Massachusetts can claim bragging rights when it comes to major offshore wind, while Rhode Island may be close behind with its 400MW Revolution Wind project, approved by state regulators in May. This will be a joint venture with Connecticut.

Carlisle believes most of the staging for Revolution Wind will take place in Rhode Island or Connecticut, but New Bedford might handle some of the overflow. “We haven’t ruled out the ability of the terminal to provide some overflow or some additional component or logistic support, or other poor areas of the port in New Bedford, for example, to serve as an operation and maintenance base,” he said.

The New Bedford terminal was designed with some flexibility in mind. The length of the quayside will allow simultaneous delivery and pickup, crucial for an offshore wind farm staging, where hugely expensive jackup vessels can ill afford to sit idle. Add to this the further complexity of the Jones Act, which mandates US flagged ships deliver goods within the US.

“The terminal is built to sort of maximize the logistical flexibility of a developer,” explained Dolan. “We wanted to be able to have a deployment going on while delivery of components was still ongoing. So the quayside was built so that you could have an internationally flagged cargo vessel unloading it at one end while you were loading U.S. flagged standard at all the other.”

So saying, New Bedford is, by comparison to the mega-ports of Europe, quite small. It’s not designed to accommodate onsite construction or large-scale fabrication, which is what has developed in European purpose-built offshore wind ports. “We don’t have some of the same manufacturing opportunities that you see” elsewhere, said Edward Anthes-Washburn, executive director at the New Bedford Port Authority. “There are some things that we’re not ever going to do because, we have a pretty productive commercial fishing port and seafood processing sector that is very vibrant. We have to be somewhat choosy on what to do.”

New Bedford also will be hard-pressed to handle more than one project at a time, said Baldwin, adding, “While it is downstream of any bridges and there are no air-gap issues, vessels do have to transit the hurricane barrier so there is a vessel beam issue.”

However, because the Commonwealth of Massachusetts paid for the facility’s development, wind farm developers won’t have the burden of carrying costs on the port. They’ll just have to pay rent. “This is their preferred model,” said Baldwin.

“There were some tense moments with the failure of Cape Wind,” said Carlisle. “But that said, we had taken the long view on this. Cape Wind was a driver, but [the terminal] wasn’t built for Cape Wind.”