Cape Wind means business for Mass.
By Erin Ailworth, Globe Staff
With the federal government's approval yesterday of the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound, Massachusetts stands at the nexus of the nation's growing offshore wind power industry, state and business officials said. And that means jobs: engineering jobs, construction jobs, technical service jobs and more.
"It spans the spectrum from blue collar to white collar. It's boatmen taking boats out there; it's blue collar workers turning the wrenches," said Roger Freeman, coordinator of the energy and environment working group at the advocacy group Progressive Business Leaders Network, which has supported Cape Wind. "I think the primary beneficiary will be the wind industry, but it helps build Massachusetts as a cluster and a center for renewable energy."
Massachusetts already has a growing wind energy industry. A federally-funded facility where workers will test wind turbine blades is under construction in Charlestown. Vestas Wind Systems, based in Denmark, has a research and development hub in Hudson. And earlier this month, Cape Wind signed an agreement to buy 130 wind turbines from Siemens Energy Inc, which now plans to open a Boston sales office for US offshore wind projects.
Siemens considers Massachusetts to be "the gateway for the national offshore wind industry," said Ian Bowles, secretary of the state's Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
Investors and wind energy manufacturers have long looked toward the US, with its largely untapped wind resources, as a market with rich potential. But most have hesitated to invest here without clear government support.
US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar's endorsement of Cape Wind -- which has been in the works for nine years – is likely what they've been waiting for, said Jim Lanard, managing director at Deepwater Wind, an offshore wind developer with projects in Rhode Island and New Jersey. He expects to see the national wind industry ramp up as a result.
"Now we've got the signal that the US is willing to permit offshore wind facilities, and I think you are going to see some greater movement with other offshore wind projects in the near future," Lanard said. "It makes it more likely that we can keep our US dollars here in this country as manufacturers start to migrate here."
At American Superconductor Corp. in Devens, which both designs and builds electrical systems for wind turbines, spokesman Jason Fredette called the Cape Wind approval a "positive development," but said he sees the US wind industry building out only over time.
"I don't necessarily think this one project will open the floodgate," he said. "Once you start seeing a pattern and more and more projects being developed -- or at least in the pipeline -- more and more manufacturers will come."
But as those companies put down stakes here, and begin to build offshore, jobs will follow, some advocates said.
"It means that all of the equipment, the material, for wind turbines will flow through the state, and certainly the opportunity for suppliers within the state to get involved," explained Nick d'Arbeloff, founding president and co-chair of the New England Clean Energy Council.
At Local 103 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, business manager Michael Monahan said Cape Wind is "going to put our members to work."
One of the next steps for Cape Wind will be to finalize an agreement with National Grid, which has agreed to purchase electricity generated by the project.
Tom King, president of National Grid's US operations, yesterday called Salazar's approval of Cape Wind a "huge milestone," and said that now National Grid and Cape Wind can "advance forward on these discussions."