THE TIME HAS COME to meet the promise of new jobs from the offshore wind industry. The main driver in my legislative support for offshore wind was the potential for job creation here in Massachusetts. I now fear the full potential will not be realized unless job creation is made a priority.
I’m happy to see that we have taken a step in the right direction for the next procurement. Previous procurements based 75 percent of the bid evaluation on price and 25 percent on environmental and economic benefits. The latest procurement has a split of 70-30. How the bidders address these factors will be the real test. The devil is in the details – choices made now by offshore wind developers will either nurture or stifle a Massachusetts supply chain.
One such choice is the type of turbine foundation bidders propose. Foundations, which support the turbines, represent about 35 percent of the cost of a new wind farm. Offshore wind developers in New England essentially have two options – steel monopiles or concrete gravity-base systems. From an economic development and environmental impact perspective, gravity-base systems are far superior. Unlike steel monopiles, which are made from foreign steel and shipped here on foreign vessels, gravity-based systems – long used in the oil and gas industry – create five times the number of jobs. Moreover, they create local union jobs for carpenters, laborers, steel workers, and equipment operators and are deployed by US flagged vessels from local ports. Unlike steel monopiles, there is no environmental impact from pile-driving noise with gravity-based systems, which are manufactured on land from concrete, towed to sea, and sunk into place.
To realize the economic and environmental benefits of gravity-based systems, the supply chain and port infrastructure improvements needed to create these jobs must start now. Today, steel monopiles have an economic advantage because the supply chain and cheap foreign steel to support them has been under development for more than 15 years in Europe. The next procurement of offshore wind in Massachusetts needs to reverse that trend.
When Brayton Point Power Plant in Somerset closed, more than 250 people lost their jobs. Now it is time for the offshore wind industry to replace those jobs. The foundation type that developers choose will determine how many of those jobs come here to Massachusetts.
Patricia Haddad is the state representative from Somerset.