Brayton Pt. manufacturing facility part of wind farm procurement
Salem’s waterfront will also become staging area for offshore wind
MASSACHUSETTS’ THIRD and largest offshore wind procurement brought with it some significant and unexpected onshore benefits, including a subsea transmission cable manufacturing facility at beleaguered Brayton Point in Somerset and a new staging facility in Salem.
Two projects totaling 1,600 megawatts were selected on Friday to move forward to the contract stage — a 1,200 megawatt wind farm proposed by Avangrid Renewables and a 400 megawatt wind farm proposed by Mayflower Wind. The same two companies won the state’s first and second procurements, and now are each taking pieces of the third.
Terms of the deals and the cost of the power were not announced and will emerge once final contracts are negotiated and approved in the spring. But the onshore benefits, some of which had been teased during the evaluation process, were fully revealed — and the big one, the manufacturing facility at Brayton Point — was disclosed for the first time.
An Italian company called Prysmian Group plans to build a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility for subsea transmission cables at Brayton Point, employing about 200 people. Once completed, it will be the first piece of the US offshore wind supply chain to be located in Massachusetts.
White said Avangrid is using one of Prysmian’s European plants as the cable supplier on Vineyard Wind and enticed the company to open a facility in Massachusetts by promising to use it as the supplier for both Commonwealth Wind and another Avangrid project off of Connecticut called Park City Wind.
“That gives them the certainty they need and they can see the pipeline ahead,” White said, referring to a host of offshore wind farms in development up and down the East Coast.
Throughout the bid review process, Avangrid teased many of the onshore benefits its project would provide, but never mentioned the Prysmian factory. White, however, confirmed the project was an integral part of the bid and indicated it was probably the reason his company landed the lion’s share of the contracts. “Winning 1,200 megawatts triggers the commitments,” he said.
White said Avangrid is also investing millions of dollars in training for Massachusetts residents to qualify for the jobs coming with the onshore development. Mayflower Wind also promised millions of dollars for onshore development.
Friday’s announcement is huge news in the tiny town of Somerset. Brayton Point is a huge swath of land on the Somerset waterfront that has become a battleground between the town and the redeveloper of the property, which was once home to New England’s largest coal-fired power plant.
Judging from a rendering of the Prysmian plant provided by Avangrid, the facility will take up much of the area that the redeveloper of Brayton Point is currently leasing to a controversial scrap metal recycling operation.
Commercial Development Inc., the redeveloper of Brayton Point, had hoped to repurpose the property for the offshore wind industry originally, but when the Trump administration put the industry on hold for years the company leased a portion of the property to a scrap metal business. The dust and the truck traffic associated with the scrap metal business angered neighbors of Brayton Point, who mobilized against it. The two sides have been battling in court over the scrap metal operation and the fallout from that fight has polarized the community.
“We’re all for manufacturing,” she said. “We’ll welcome it with open arms. We hope they’ll be great neighbors. It looks to me like the manufacturing jobs we have all been waiting for all along.”
Officials at Commercial Development declined comment.
Brayton Point is also getting a lift from Mayflower Wind, which intends to bring the power generated by its new 400-megawatt wind farm ashore at Brayton Point, where it will feed into the regional electric grid using much the same connection that the coal-fired power plant used when it was operating. Mayflower intends to build a converter station at Brayton Point to convert the power coming from the wind farm for use on the power grid.
The converter station and the transmission cable manufacturing facility are likely to provide property tax revenues in Somerset that went missing when the town’s coal-fired power plant shut down.
Mayflower Wind said its proposal is accompanied by an economic development package that includes commitments to spend more than $42 million promoting onshore development.
Salem will also see its waterfront change as the Commonwealth Wind project moves forward. Avangrid said it plans to use a 42-acre section of the Salem waterfront, which was previously home to a coal-fired power plant, as a staging area for Commonwealth Wind. Avangrid had teased the Salem project as a possibility during the bidding process, but now it is moving closer to reality.
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll issued a statement saying she was thrilled. “This site has provided the electricity that powered our community and our Commonwealth for decades.,” she said. “Today, with this announcement, that legacy will continue with a new focus on a clean energy future, based on renewable power and with a commitment to real action to mitigate climate change.”
The two projects announced on Friday and the onshore economic development accompanying them comes at a time when leaders of the Massachusetts House are preparing legislation to support offshore wind and capture more onshore economic development. House officials say a requirement that each successive offshore wind project must come in at a lower price than the preceding one has to be scrapped if onshore development is going to take off. The procurements announced on Friday, which must come in below the price cap, suggest that may not be necessary.
In a statement released by the governor’s office, officials involved in the debate on Beacon Hill all highlighted the onshore development accompanying this procurement.
“In structuring the Commonwealth’s third offshore wind procurement, the Baker-Polito Administration focused on delivering enhanced economic benefits for Massachusetts residents, affordable pricing for ratepayers, and the development of a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce, and the projects selected through this competitive process deliver on those critical priorities,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides.“This round sees a wise balance struck between economic development, on the one hand, and protection against excessively high monthly electric bills for families, on the other,” said Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington. “Going forward, this can serve as a model for us. So today’s announcement is important in its own right and important as a valuable precedent.”
House Speaker Ron Mariano indicated more work needs to be done. “Today’s announcement moves Massachusetts one step closer to achieving the ambitious offshore wind energy goals that the Legislature is continuously advancing,” Mariano said. “We look forward to continuing our progress in making Massachusetts a national leader in clean energy.”