Massachusetts is looking to capitalize. It wants to add 1,600 megawatts of electricity by 2027. That would be enough to power a third of all residential homes in the state and supply 11 percent of its overall needs. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, a state agency, also estimates that the projects could generate 9,850 jobs over 10 years, and add $2.1 billion to the state’s economy.
Developers say the state’s plan includes a series of projects large enough to help spawn a network of local suppliers of everything from components for the turbines to services like maintaining them, and drive down costs. Other states are pushing forward as well. Connecticut will soon name a developer for an offshore wind project of its own, while New York and New Jersey have both announced ambitious plans.
New England is particularly well suited to offshore wind farms. There is not enough land for wind turbines onshore, and the area is not ideal for solar power. At the same time, Massachusetts has been under pressure to find new sources of energy to replace aging conventional and nuclear plants, as well as meet targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change.
The state is betting that, by investing in offshore wind decades after Northern Europe first tested the technology, it can avoid some of the growing pains experienced across the Atlantic.
For years, projects there required large government subsidies to be economically viable. Recently, technical advances and plummeting prices have meant that countries like Germany and the Netherlands have been able to award offshore wind projects with zero subsidies. As a bonus, offshore wind farms have supported thousands of jobs in port cities in the region.
Two of the three bids in Massachusetts came from European developers. The winner was a joint venture of Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, a Danish renewable energy investment firm, and a subsidiary of Iberdrola, a Spanish utility. The other bids came from a consortium led by the Danish wind giant Orsted, and Deepwater Wind, which is based in Providence, R.I., and mainly owned by D.E. Shaw, an investment firm.
“We know in light of Northern Europe’s experience with offshore wind that many U.S. ports will benefit from the arrival of the industry here,” Jon Mitchell, the New Bedford mayor, said in an interview.
New Bedford has benefited from a lucrative sector before. In the mid-19th century, its whaling industry made it one of the wealthiest cities in the United States. “Nowhere in all America will you find more patrician-like houses; parks and gardens more opulent, than in New Bedford,” Herman Melville wrote in his epic novel, “Moby-Dick.”