BRAYTON POINT in Somerset is finally getting a piece of the offshore wind industry it has been courting for years, but the industrial prize is apparently not big enough to displace the controversial scrap metal business that occupies a portion of the property and has alienated much of the town.
An Italian company called Prysmian has purchased roughly 50 acres of the 306-acre Brayton Point property and plans to build a subsea cable manufacturing facility there to service the emerging offshore wind industry. The factory represents a new direction for Brayton Point, the former site of a large, two-tower, coal-fired power plant that at one point was burning 40,000 tons of coal every three days.
The Prysmian deal was announced in mid-December, as part of an offshore wind procurement by Massachusetts, but sources say it has been a very difficult two months getting the Italian manufacturer on the same page with the redeveloper of Brayton Point, a St. Louis-based company called Commercial Development Inc. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed yet.
The Prysmian deal is the first tangible sign of how the offshore wind industry may soon begin to have an economic impact in Massachusetts. A press conference is scheduled for Thursday at Brayton Point to formally announce the deal. Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito are scheduled to attend, along with officials from Prysmian and Avangrid, the winning bidder of the offshore wind procurement.
The manufacturing plant is also a big deal for the town of Somerset. Commercial Development tore down the power plant, the town’s largest taxpayer, with the hope that the offshore wind industry would step in and take its place. But a long delay in federal permitting of offshore wind farms left the property empty for years, and led Commercial Development to fill the void by leasing space on the waterfront to a scrap metal export operation.
Scrap metal is brought by truck to Brayton Point, where it is piled high and then loaded on to ships for delivery to Turkey. The truck traffic, noise, and dust caused by the scrap metal operation have alienated residents living near Brayton Point and prompted a political takeover of the Select Board by officials opposed to the scrap metal operation.
Tension between the town and Commercial Development remains high. The two sides are already in court over the town’s refusal to issue permits allowing the company to expand its commodity business at Brayton Point. The town also recently fined Commercial Development $30,000 for violating the municipality’s noise bylaw, according to Town Manager Michael McLaughlin.
According to two sources familiar with Prysmian’s deal with Commercial Development, the new factory will be located on land a short distance away from the scrap metal operation, which means the scrap metal exports are likely to continue. An earlier rendering of the Prysmian facility showed the factory very close to the scrap metal operation. Officials at Commercial Development could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Somerset Select Board last summer appealed for help to Gov. Charlie Baker, pointing out that the state technically owns the loading dock and a portion of the adjacent property used by the scrap metal operation. The Select Board urged Baker to get involved personally and address the situation. So far, Baker has taken no action to shut down the scrap metal business. Last July, the governor said he wasn’t sure whether the state owned a portion of the property.
Attorney General Maura Healey has also indicated she may sue the owner of Brayton Point for violations of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, but so far nothing has been filed.