Five local sites on radar for wind energy
With offshore wind farms south of Martha’s Vineyard coming, the gearing up of supply chain industries is not far behind.
With three international developers within six weeks of submitting landmark competitive bids to Massachusetts and its utility companies to create offshore wind farms south of Martha’s Vineyard, the gearing up of supply chain industries is not far behind.
In an assessment report the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center released a few weeks ago, officials announced extensive reports it had put together that targeted and analyzed locations that could generate a windfall.
Five of 18 waterfront sites along the state’s coast cited are in Somerset and Fall River, all of them on the Taunton River/Mount Hope Bay and well known: Brayton Point and the former Montaup power plant in Somerset, and in Fall River Weaver’s Cove, the State Pier and the Borden & Remington complex.
Brayton Point is by far the largest site, with just over 300 acres and a 1,500-megawatt coal-fired power plant that’s been decommissioned and for sale. Nearby Montaup, the other power plant that has not generated electricity for nearly eight years, has less than a tenth of Brayton Point’s acreage, with much of it not on the waterfront.
Only the 10-acre State Pier has a public ownership interest, and MassCEC officials in their analysis stress that potential for wind industry uses are subject to negotiations between developers and private owners.
Details of each property includes engineering analysis “to create a set of detailed upgrade plans,” MassCEC reported.
It lists for each low to high potential reuses, with estimated costs to prepare the sites for redevelopment and for the different levels of reuse. The costs increase — sometimes significantly — the higher the use.
An examination of the five Greater Fall River sites shows all are within relatively close range of the envisioned Martha’s Vineyard wind farms, 37 to 39 nautical miles, and four of the five have berthing depths that are deep and ideal, 33 to 34½ feet.
Only Borden & Remington, now specializing in commodity chemical manufacturing and storage, is somewhat shallower at 27½ feet. It also has the shortest pier structures, up to 400 feet while the quayside capacities of the others are 500 to 600 feet.
Brayton Point, Borden & Remington and the State Pier contain water and electric utilities, the latter two to accommodate vessels, according to the MassCEC reports.
Officials from the state agency recently discussed with The Herald News in a conference call the aims of their compiled research.
“The intent is not to rank the sites or say what is the best one,” said Bill White, MassCEC senior director of offshore wind.
Identifying prospective supply chain industries and uses was done as “a resource to the offshore wind industry” and benefit the state with the potential of 1,600 megawatts of wind power.
That’s about 10 percent of the state’s generated electricity, he said.
White said waterfront access is key, naturally, and Brayton Point’s 307 acres is “the largest industrial site we believe in the Northeast.”
The state is aware of “an enormous amount of interest” of developers purchasing all or portions of Brayton Point for offshore wind industry uses. “But we won’t know until the parcel is sold,” he said.
White stressed not all offshore wind activities require the same acreage. He noted the relatively low redevelopment costs at the State Pier, approximately $240,000, mostly for environmental permitting, for uses of operations and maintenance, secondary steel or cables.
Listed cost for the new use of cable, for instance, is projected at $3.9 million or nearly double operations and maintenance for the industry.
At Brayton Point, total costs range from $21.4 million for operations and maintenance that would not require removing the old power plant, to the $100 million or more for wind towers or for turbine or monopile foundations, as examples.
The written summary, provided for each location, says at Brayton Point, “with some engineering upgrades, there is a large amount of acreage available for offshore wind development.”
White and engineer/project manager Christen Anton said they could conceive of a partnership between Borden & Remington that could store turbines moved from the State Pier by barge, as another example.
The proximity directly across the Taunton River of Weaver’s Cove in Fall River and Montaup in Somerset has potential for tandem uses, particularly by barge, reports and officials indicated.
They also have the same owner after William Thibeault of Everett a year ago bought the former Shell Oil Co. petroleum distribution facility on 68 acres.
Among limitations the reports listed for those locations are the number of bridges and limited passage openings to Mount Hope Bay.