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Offshore Wind Power, Long Ignored in U.S., Wins Foothold in Massachusetts

In the hopes of another such boost, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the state agency, has already spent $113 million dredging the harbor and expanding and reinforcing a 29-acre marine commerce terminal. The state is preparing it to load the components of turbines that stretch up to 600 feet high and weigh many tons on to special vessels for installation at sea.

Whether Massachusetts can pull of its ambitious plans will depend to some degree on local issues — and not everyone in the area is enthusiastic.

In particular, some of New Bedford’s fishermen are worried. The city’s port is already home to hundreds of fishing boats, as well as seafood auction houses and processing plants. It generates about $3.3 billion a year and supports about 6,200 jobs, according to the local authorities. “You don’t want to destroy one type of sustainable energy harvest with another one,” said Kevin Stokesbury, a professor at the School for Marine Science and Technology at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

Eric Hansen, a scallop fisherman, said that he and his colleagues were concerned about threading their way through a relatively narrow allotted path through spinning turbines.

“Think fog, heavy seas,” he said.

Even so, wind power is gaining its adherents.

Opposition to offshore wind in the state appears to have quieted since the death of Mr. Kennedy in 2009. The senator and his family successfully resisted a project off Cape Cod that would have been the first offshore wind farm in the United States, a project proposed in 2001.

The area’s high electricity prices may prove, counterintuitively, to be a plus. Power prices in Massachusetts are the second highest in the nation, behind only Hawaii, and high rates prevail in much of the rest of New England and in New York. As a result, customers might be more willing to pay the increased early prices for power generated by offshore wind.

The economic boost, too, is appealing, especially in a once-affluent city of 100,000 people.

Kevin McLaughlin employs more than 100 people in his shipyards across the harbor at Fairhaven, and has already won additional work from offshore operators.

“As long as there are boats that will be here,” he said, “it is business for us.”

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News credit : Nytimes

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