NEW BEDFORD — The first five tower pieces for offshore wind turbines arrived in New Bedford Wednesday afternoon, with about 180 more still to come. In the first week of June, blades the length of a football field are due in after a short sail from Canada. And the following month, big, blocky nacelles (the core of the turbine head) will make their way into port from France.
For elected officials, supporters and wind companies, the hard-to-miss parts represent the undeniable arrival of the offshore wind industry in the United States after years of false starts, delays and federal reviews.
“What you see behind me is really a testament to the staggering amount of work that has been put in by a huge number of individuals over the last 10, 20 years,” said Massachusetts’ Undersecretary of Energy Michael Judge. “We have requirements to reduce our emissions to net zero by 2050 … in order to do that, we’re going to need a significant amount of offshore wind, we estimate up to 23 gigawatts … this is the first of many projects to come.”
This month, the Healey administration announced the state’s fourth round of offshore wind solicitation, calling for 3.6 gigawatts in addition to the projects already contracted. Vineyard Wind will bring Massachusetts 0.8 gigawatts closer to its goal.
With the first five tower pieces still wrapped in their protective plastic aboard a 500-foot Portugal-flagged carrier, Vineyard Wind’s CEO Klaus Moeller on Thursday thanked the people of Massachusetts for their support on this project.
“There’s still a lot to do, a lot of heavy lifting, but I hope that New Bedford and Vineyard Wind can be the beacon for the green energy transition in the U.S.,” said Moeller, with state and local officials donning protective helmets standing behind him.
Most of that literal heavy lifting will be happening in the Port of New Bedford, with the help of gargantuan cranes situated atop a marine terminal that was purpose-built in 2015 to handle the heavy loads of offshore wind infrastructure. Vineyard Wind has the terminal lease through the end of 2024, with SouthCoast Wind set to follow.
The New Bedford Foss Terminal, still under construction just north of the MassCEC terminal, will also support offshore wind projects and draw more activity to the port.
Jeff Lewis, project director for GE Renewable Energy, which is supplying the 62 Haliade-X 13-megawatt wind turbines, told New Bedford to get used to seeing the UHL Felicity, as Wednesday marked the first of many round trips the carrier will make between the city and Portugal.
For the inaugural trip, the carrier brought in five tower parts (three atop, and two stowed in the hull). But next trip, Lewis said it’ll probably carry nine tower parts (which would make up three turbines).
“We’re getting this equipment on the ground and it’s giving us the opportunity to kind of in the beginning, just go slowly and make sure we’re doing things safely, number one, and working on quality,” Lewis said. “And then really trying to get the right rhythm so that when we start the installation process, they install quite quickly … you really have to have a good supply chain flow that feeds the offshore wind farm.”
Some of the people doing that shoreside assembly will be union laborers.
David Araujo, Southeastern Massachusetts Building Trades Council president, signed a project labor agreement with Vineyard Wind nearly two years ago in the same spot where he watched Thursday’s press conference.
The agreement promised at least 500 union jobs for both onshore and offshore work. Araujo said nearly 250 union workers have received standard wind training, which is required to work on offshore wind projects, and that close to 100 are currently working on the project between its locations in New Bedford and Cape Cod.
“I think that we have a lot of interest, but we’re looking for more because once we get done with the construction part of it, we’re gonna be looking for people for the maintenance part of it,” he said. “And this isn’t the only project. We’re already in negotiations with Commonwealth Wind, Park City and talking to SouthCoast Wind.”
Anatomy of a wind turbine
Moeller said they will soon install six of the monopiles for the turbines, with the large offshore substation — which collects and transfers the wind energy to the subsea cables — scheduled to arrive at the lease site soon after (it departed Denmark on Thursday).
Another heavy load carrier, RollDock Sky, is en route from the Netherlands to the Canadian Port of Gaspe, which is home to one of GE’s blade manufacturing facilities. There will also be turbine blades and nacelles coming from Cherbourg and Saint-Nazaire in France, per a GE spokesperson.
By Thursday afternoon, the UHL Felicity’s built-in cranes slowly moved the first of the tower components off the vessel and onto the terminal. When the pieces head out to the lease site this summer, two of the three tower components will be connected and upright atop a barge, along with the nacelle and three stacked blades.
According to Vineyard Wind, when all of those pieces come together offshore, a single spin of one turbine will generate enough electricity to power a Massachusetts home for one day.
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