New Bedford, Mass. — Massachusetts could produce more energy from offshore wind than any other state, according to a new report from the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center.
“We have a practically limitless clean energy resource off our shores,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. “Tapping into our offshore wind potential means cleaner air, healthier communities, and the chance to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”
According to the report, Wind Power to Spare: The Enormous Energy Potential of Atlantic Offshore Wind, Massachusetts’ offshore wind potential is equivalent to more than 19 times the state’s annual electricity consumption. If all heating and transportation in Massachusetts were converted from fossil fuels to electric power, offshore wind could still produce eight times as much energy as the Commonwealth consumes each year.
“New Bedford has worked hard to position itself as an offshore wind energy leader,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell. “We are the closest industrial port to 25 percent of all offshore wind reserves in the U.S., and as the nation’s top-grossing fishing port, there’s already a strong foundation of maritime industries and ocean science institutions to support the industry’s growth here. So the notion that offshore wind can be a major economic driver is anything but speculative.”
Offshore wind is a proven technology overseas. In Europe, 4,100 offshore wind turbines supply enough electricity to power more than 20 million homes each day.
There are now 13 leased offshore wind projects moving forward in the United States, which could provide enough electricity to power approximately 5.2 million homes. In December, three companies submitted proposals to develop the first offshore wind farm providing power to Massachusetts.
"Atlantic coastal states use more than a quarter of the nation’s energy,” said Gideon Weissman, a policy analyst with Frontier Group and an author of the report. "Offshore wind is the ideal resource for these states — it’s clean, it’s renewable, and it’s conveniently located near our biggest cities.”
Advances in technology and declining costs, coupled with growing concern about the environmental impacts of fossil fuels, have contributed to the recent momentum behind offshore wind. The turbines at the Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island produce 30 times more electricity each year than the first offshore wind turbines installed in Denmark in the early 1990s.
According to the asset management firm Lazard, the overall cost of new offshore wind has declined by 25 percent in the last 5 years. Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that the cost will decline by an additional 71 percent by 2040.
“America is on the cusp of creating a new base industry in clean and sustainable electricity generated from offshore wind, and New Bedford is at the epicenter,” said Paul Vigeant, Managing Director of the New Bedford Wind Energy Center. “In a few years, wind farms will be deployed from the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal and then serviced from the port for the next 25 years.”
"By expanding access to clean energy and energy efficiency in the South Coast, we can protect the environment, improve public health, and help residents save money," said Nicole Morris-McLaughlin, Program Coordinator for the Marion Institute. "We're working to make sure that New Bedford residents from all walks of life benefit from the transition to offshore wind."
In August 2016, Governor Charlie Baker signed legislation committing Massachusetts to purchase 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind by 2027, equivalent to approximately 10-15 percent of Massachusetts’ electricity consumption on an annual basis. Since then, New York has adopted a 2,400-megawatt offshore wind target, and New Jersey has committed to develop 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030.
“Offshore wind has the potential to power Massachusetts communities for decades to come,” said Matthew Morrissey, Massachusetts Vice President for Deepwater Wind. “We’re ready to get to work to make affordable offshore wind energy a reality for the Commonwealth and to build a new local industry we can all be proud of.”
"Ørsted has been instrumental in delivering commercial-scale offshore wind energy across Europe for decades, and we excited about the potential that exists in Massachusetts," said Lauren Burm, Head of Public Affairs for Ørsted North America. "Environment Massachusetts’ report solidifies the enormous benefit that offshore wind energy can bring to a region, and our Bay State Wind project further underscores the importance of establishing the Commonwealth as the hub for clean, renewable energy, with the development of a new supply chain and job opportunities.”
“The sooner we start building the Commonwealth’s first commercial scale offshore wind project, the sooner local residents and businesses will benefit from the abundant environmental and economic advantages that are associated with large-scale renewable and sustainable offshore wind energy,” said Erich Stephens, Chief Development Officer for Vineyard Wind.
“It’s not a question of if we will power Massachusetts with 100 percent renewable energy, it’s a question of when,” said Hellerstein. “Offshore wind will play a critical role in our clean, renewable future. The sooner we can tap into our offshore wind potential, the better off we’ll be.”
The Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center is dedicated to protecting Massachusetts’ air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help Bay Staters make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.