Mass. port gets $15M grant in boost for offshore project

Source: David Iaconangelo, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2018

The offshore wind industry in Massachusetts will get a boost from federal transportation funds as part of an expansion of the major fishing port in the city of New Bedford.

The $15.4 million announced last week by the Department of Transportation will pay for about two-fifths of the expansion, which includes a new site for “staging” — the term for storing and fitting together the heavy components of turbines and other equipment before they’re hauled out to sea for installation.

It comes as federal officials prepare to unleash a new wave of offshore wind activity in Massachusetts. Tomorrow, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is set to take bids on the rights to build turbines in federal waters off the state’s coast. Nineteen companies are expected to participate in the auctions, with two blocks amounting to almost 390,000 acres in total.

In a statement, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said the grant money “opens the door to new opportunities in offshore wind energy and other marine industries.” He thanked Sen. Ed Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who led members of the state’s congressional delegation in pushing for the funding.

A representative from Markey’s office said in an email that the additional staging site would create “a ripple effect of increased manufacturing, construction, fabrication and shipbuilding opportunities” and turn the port into the nation’s offshore wind leader.

The state has been at the East Coast’s vanguard for offshore planning, as the first to take steps like holding meet-and-greet forums for suppliers and local businesses or publishing assessments of prime real estate options for manufacturers and turbine operators.

New Bedford in particular is becoming an epicenter of the nascent industry. At least three developers have set up offices there, close to waters where they hold the lease to carry out projects. Those companies have also agreed to deploy their equipment from an existing staging site, known as the Marine Commerce Terminal and constructed partly in anticipation of offshore wind business.

In addition to the new staging site, the city’s expansion project will increase docking space at its port by the equivalent of 60 more vessels and sequester some 250,000 cubic yards of contaminated material.