Santa comes early for offshore wind businesses

Baker administration gives out $180m in grants

CHRISTMAS CAME early for the fledgling offshore wind industry in Massachusetts, as the Baker administration handed out $180 million on Tuesday for infrastructure improvements and businesses in New Bedford, Somerset, and Salem.

The money flowed, even though the wind farms the state is counting on to spur the industry are having difficulty financing their projects. The awards were announced at the state wind turbine testing facility in Charlestown.

The largest amount of money, $75 million, went to Crowley Maritime, which has purchased 42 acres on the Salem waterfront and is preparing to redevelop the property to support offshore wind development.

Another $45 million went for improvements to the state-owned New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, which has been open for years but will get its first offshore wind customer, Vineyard Wind, starting in January.

The New Bedford Port Authority received an award of $15 million and another $15 million is going to the New Bedford Foss Marine Terminal, a private waterfront facility being constructed to provide support services for the offshore wind industry.

The Prysmiam Group, an electrical cable firm based in Italy that operates more than 80 factories in Europe, the US, and Latin America, received $25 million in state money to help it acquire land at Brayton Point in Somerset and build a subsea cable manufacturing facility there.

Gladding Hearn Shipbuilding, Duclos Corp. of Somerset was given $360,000 to help it build crew transport vessels for offshore wind developers.

Many of the funded projects are contingent on offshore wind farms that are now facing an uncertain future amid rising interest rates, soaring inflation, and supply chain problems.

Commonwealth Wind, the largest wind farm in the state’s pipeline, said it was walking away from the latest procurement process last Friday, explaining that it needed to receive a higher price for the electricity to finance the project amid the current economic turmoil.

Mayflower Wind, which also said it needed to revise its contract in October, shifted gears in November and said it would continue through the procurement process with its original power purchase agreement. The company hasn’t yet explained how it will make the numbers work.

Beth Card, the secretary of energy and environmental affairs, acknowledged the Prysmiam manufacturing facility is contingent on Commonwealth Wind moving forward. But she wasn’t concerned about giving Prysmiam $25 million amid such uncertainty.

She said Prysmiam won’t get the money if it fails to build the manufacturing plant, but she said she is convinced wind farms are coming.

 “We want Massachusetts to be ready to support the offshore wind industry,” she said.

Commonwealth Wind said it was dropping out of the latest procurement process when state regulators rejected its bid to reopen negotiations over the pricing in its power purchase contract.

Gov. Charlie Baker made clear on Tuesday that Commonwealth Wind should not have been allowed to change the terms of the power purchase contract it agreed to earlier this year.

“Procurements are procurements and bids are bids,” he said. “You can’t go back and open those up unless you’re willing to open up the bid all over again and give those who bid on it the first time a chance to bid again. There’s no such thing as a do-over and there shouldn’t be.”

The governor also said the federal government is making a lot of money available to the offshore wind industry through the Inflation Reduction Act. He said that financial support should allow wind farms to weather the current financial storm.

He said wind farms are  20-year projects that are always going to encounter bumps along the way. “These things take a long time. They do not always go according to plan,” he said.