A first step on offshore wind

Federal, state, and local officials gathered on Cape Cod Thursday for a ceremonial groundbreaking for Vineyard Wind, the first large-scale offshore wind farm in the United States.

It was a day for back-slapping, congratulations, and the telling of stories, but it was also the dawn of what many hope will be an energy revolution in Massachusetts and the United States. It’s a revolution that started late – it took three years for Vineyard Wind to win its federal clearance to proceed with construction – and one that needs to move into high gear quickly.

“I don’t think it should have taken this long. I really don’t,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “But if we truly want to get where we need to go as fast as we need to go on this stuff, we have got to figure out a way to move a little faster.”

Gov. Charlie Baker walks away after the ceremonial groundbreaking for Vineyard Wind at Covell’s Beach in Barnstable on Cape Cod. (Photo by Bruce Mohl)

Katie Theoharides, the governor’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs, said the state needs to move a lot faster. Vineyard Wind at full buildout is an 800-megawatt project that is currently scheduled to start producing some power in 2023. She said Massachusetts will have to bring 1,000 megawatts of offshore wind power online every year starting in 2030 to reach the state’s net zero emissions goal by 2050.

The local angle: The groundbreaking took place at Covell’s Beach, a beautiful stretch of sand in Centerville, one of seven villages that make up the town of Barnstable. The beach is where the power lines from the 62-turbine wind farm 35 miles out to sea will come ashore before connecting to a substation further inland. The beach is a bit of a construction mess now, but Lars Pedersen, the CEO of Vineyard Wind, promised there will be no evidence of a power line except a manhole cover when the work is completed.

The project will be a boon for Barnstable. The host community agreement calls for Vineyard wind to make payments of at least $1.5 million each year in property taxes and host community payments, plus an additional $60,000 annually for each year the project is in operation beyond 25 years. Connecting the power line to the substation will require opening up streets to lay the cables, and the town will piggyback on that work laying new sewer lines at the same time. 

“We’ll save the town millions of dollars,” Pedersen said.

The national angle: US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said the Biden administration is planning a rapid buildout of offshore wind, with the goal of deploying 30 gigawatts (30,000 megawatts) by 2030. That’s a very ambitious target, and House Speaker Ron Mariano is on board. “We know that the waters off Massachusetts, with our high winds and shallow waters, have the potential to deliver at least one-third of all the president’s goal,” he said. That would be 10,000 megawatts. Massachusetts has contracted for 1,600 megawatts so far, and is currently running a procurement for another 1,600 megawatts, with another procurement for 2,400 megawatts authorized but not even started yet. In total, that’s 5,000 megawatts, only halfway to the goal Biden has set.

Better get going: Mariano has a plan to speed things up. “We’re ready, governor, to authorize changes in the procurement legislation,” he said. The speaker said Rep. Jeffrey Roy of Franklin, who was at the groundbreaking, is drafting the new legislation. “We better get going Jeff,” Mariano said. 

The speaker said he has made personal sacrifices for offshore wind. He recalled a 2016 legislative fact-finding trip to Denmark. He arrived at his hotel in Copenhagen lugging a big suitcase and discovered he had 15 minutes to get ready for an event. He discovered the hotel had no elevator and his room was on the fourth floor. “I was running up the stairs when I heard a pop [in my knee],” he said. Mariano finished the trip (and later required a knee replacement), which Pedersen said showed the speaker’s dedication to offshore wind. 

Unofficial motto: On the day after Vineyard Wind won its power contract in May 2018, Pedersen said he received a text from the company’s lobbyist, Christian Scorzoni of Travaglini Scorzoni Kiley. The text featured a picture of Scorzoni and Baker giving the thumbs up along with a message: “Gov. says congratulations and don’t screw it up.” Pedersen confided another word was actually used instead of screwed. “Those words became the unofficial motto of the project,” Pederson said. 

What’s at stake: Sen. Julian Cyr of Truro became quite emotional talking about Vineyard Wind and what it means for climate change and Cape Cod. “What we do today and what we do over the next 10 years is going to determine whether the people that come after us are going to actually stand on this beach or if this beach is going to be here,” he said. “Are they going to make a life here – or not?”

BRUCE MOHL

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Climate initiative scrapped: Gov. Charlie Baker pulls the plug on the transportation climate initiative, a cap-and-invest initiative for automobile fuels that the Baker administration saw as critical to efforts to reach net zero emissions by 2050. The decision came days after Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut said he wouldn’t be on board, leaving Massachusetts in a go-it-alone situation. 

— The initiative required fuel dealers to purchase allowances for the products they sell, which would hike the price of gasoline while generating revenue for investments in clean energy infrastructure. The Baker administration said the revenue for those investments will now have to come from the billions in aid coming from the federal government. Read more.

Healey weighs in: Attorney General Maura Healey made public information she obtained during an investigation of Mass General Brigham’s proposal to open new or expanded ambulatory care centers in Westborough, Woburn, and Westwood. The information indicates the expansion, which would cost an estimated $224 million, would generate $385 million in annual profit, suggesting it would drive up health care costs in the state. Read more.

Wu backs Edwards: Boston Mayor Michelle Wu endorses City Councilor Lydia Edwards, who is running in the special election for the Senate seat vacated by Joe Boncore of Winthrop. Edwards could be a valuable State House ally for the new mayor. Read more.

DOC prevails: The Supreme Judicial Court sided with the state Department of Correction in a lawsuit challenging the agency’s failure to release more inmates during the pandemic. The court held that the Department of Correction’s approach, particularly its decision to offer vaccines to inmates, represented an adequate effort to mitigate the risk of illness. Read more.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker unloads on lawmakers for not passing legislation to appropriate billions of dollars in federal stimulus funds. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu names Segun Idowu, head of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, to serve as the city’s chief of economic development. (Boston Globe

The Boston Employment Commission approves fines on builders who fail to provide information on their hiring practices. As yet, fines are not imposed for failing to meet requirements on minority and Boston resident hiring. (GBH)

Some business owners and residents near the Mass. and Cass area aren’t happy with Mayor Michelle Wu’s “pausing” of removal of tents from the encampments there. (Boston Herald)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The Baker administration allows booster shots for all Massachusetts adults, six months after their second shot of Pfizer or Moderna or two months after a single shot of J&J. (North of Boston Media Group)

There was a large jump in the number of COVID cases in schools this week – 3,257 students and 558 staff members tested positive. Thursday’s daily report of COVID cases, with 3,196 newly reported cases, showed the largest single-day number since February. (MassLive)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The House plans to vote today on the more than $2 trillion Build Back Better legislation after action was delayed by a day by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who took to the floor for a rambling hours-long oration to slow the bill’s movement. (Washington Post

EDUCATION

Boston Public Schools enrollment falls below 50,000 for the first time in decades. (Boston Globe

A new report from the Worcester school committee shows Latino and disabled students have particularly struggled academically with returning to school. (Telegram & Gazette)

ARTS/CULTURE

Martín Espada, a poet and professor of English at UMass Amherst, wins the 2021 National Book Award in poetry for a collection on the fight over immigration. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

TRANSPORTATION

Worcester extends its free fare policy through the end of 2022,  but officials once again underscore that a sustainable source of revenue will be needed once the federal aid money used to replaced the fare revenue runs out. (WBUR)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Amherst, Bowdoin, Hampshire, Smith, and Williams colleges contract with a $76.5 megawatt solar farm in Maine owned by NextEra Energy Resources for the bulk of their electricity needs. (Berkshire Eagle)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Federal prosecutors are opposing Jasiel Correia’s request to delay the start of his prison sentence until after Christmas, saying the former Fall River mayor should report to prison as scheduled on December 3. (Herald News

MEDIA

Gannett is replacing the editor who left the Cambridge Chronicle-Tab. (Media Nation) 

PASSINGS

Mark Blazis, a nature lover and science teacher who wrote the Outdoors column for the Telegram & Gazette, dies at 74. (Telegram & Gazette