Increased Sense of Urgency Needed around Off Shore Wind Development

SAFE member Mike Magee published the following letter in the Salem News, May 6, 2021.

I was inspired by Ted Warren’s May 13 piece in the Salem News (“Choices for a historic maritime deep-water port”) as well as the other offshore wind articles recently presented. As most know, the landscape regarding offshore changed dramatically with Gov. Baker’s and President Biden’s commitment of support and funding at the end of March. The alignment of technology, funding and commitment is not only just a multigenerational opportunity for us, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Salem.

I was also alarmed that 95% of the discussion at meetings of the Salem Harbor Port Authority related to the use of the property centered on a massive residential development, with just minor discussion of offshore wind. I now firmly believe the Massachusetts legislation required to change the Designated Port Area and enable that housing development will not take place and that Footprint is now reconsidering participating in offshore wind.

Salem is the only entity that has actually demonstrated the ability to marshal components at an offshore wind scale.

But we are far from having a clear path to success. The environmental benefits, positive economic windfall, and preservation of our maritime heritage that offshore wind extends are still in jeopardy. Opportunity is fleeting. Money doesn’t sit on the table for long. Since the late March announcements, the states of Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, New York and New Jersey have announced that they are getting into the race.

The recently announced Vineyard Wind project will consume nearly 100% of New Bedford’s capacity, and nearby states are vying to get the business. Yet not a peep of commitment from Salem.

What is remarkable here is that Salem has been approached and told that we check off all of the boxes to pick up the much-needed additional capacity for offshore wind in terms of marshaling and longer-term operation and maintenance of the wind farms. What is even more remarkable is that, as far as I know, Salem is the only entity that has actually demonstrated the ability to marshal components at an offshore wind scale. It’s worth reflecting on the fact that during the construction of the power plant almost every major component, some weighing more than 300 tons, came in via ship and were lifted and stored on the south lot using the same technology that offshore wind marshaling requires. We have done this.

No one would argue that structural enhancements to our DPA need to be made here. But remember that New Bedford was transformed from a less capable lot to offshore-wind-ready in a year.

During a recent Harbor Port Authority meeting, when questioned about contacting Congressman Moulton’s office, the response was that the city had not yet contacted them, but “could although we might not know what we are talking about.” Hearing that, I contacted the congressman’s office, and they are waiting for a call from the city. In response to a question a a recent meeting about where the Port Authority approved appraisal of the lot stood, the response from the city was: “It’s complicated.” Some might view these responses as excuses. I look at them as challenges. We should also look at the months-long delays as a clear threat to our success.

Salem needs to embrace a sense of urgency. We need to work at business speed and not at city speed. This is a multibillion-dollar issue that requires a person or group that is clearly focused on the success of Salem. We have all the parts, people, knowledge and drive to get this done. I would urge the city to appoint a person who under the direction of the Port Authority has the power, resources, independence, accountability and above all responsibility to move Salem forward. This person needs to resolve the land issue to our benefit, engage the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, align state and federal resources, announce that we are in the offshore wind business, and do it as soon as possible with a sense of urgency.