THE OFFSHORE WIND industry is coming to the Gulf of Maine. It promises 20,000 new jobs, billions of dollars in investments and economic impact, including repurposed and newly-developed state infrastructure at the Port of Portsmouth, Pease Tradeport, and other sites.
It means clean, renewable power generation — for use right here in New Hampshire. This diversification of our energy resources will move New Hampshire decisively away from carbon and garner enormous savings for ratepayers. It also will address the climate crises and improve public health.
While 2020 has been one of the most difficult years in modern history, here in the Granite State and throughout New England, there is a bright spot on the horizon: a game-changing investment in offshore wind.
In 2019, New Hampshire finally began exploring opportunities for a new, large-scale offshore wind industry right off our coast. Having requested the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to create for New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts the Gulf of Maine Intergovernmental Task Force — established to determine leasable areas in federal waters — our region can join other states along the Atlantic Seaboard in offshore wind development. Now that we better understand from the examples in southern New England and Europe the financial and climate benefits and the practicality of this renewable energy resource, our focus has turned to position New Hampshire to be a new hub for this industry.
To underscore the economic potential of offshore wind, a recent study by the research firm Wood Mackenzie highlighted the many opportunities for our state. The development of five gigawatts of offshore projects in the Gulf of Maine over the next 10-15 years, with the potential for another four plus gigawatts, will generate jobs and investments in port development, construction, operations and maintenance, turbine manufacture, transportation, the larger supply chain, and general services.
Moreover, the industry will create more than $1.5 billion in wages and state tax benefits that would put offshore wind squarely in the top tier of industries in our state. Sectors of our economy slated to benefit from this brand-new industry are also vast: the creation of new electrical, welding, and other union jobs; the need for vessel operators moving turbine components, personnel and other materials out to project sites — the list goes on.
Engineers, marine biologists, construction, and many other job sectors will soon be in high demand to meet project timelines. And that’s before we get to the myriad economic benefits to local shops, restaurants, hotels, and other professional service industries.
The question should be asked: Are we taking this industry seriously enough? Activity is already heating up, thanks to recent efforts by the state Legislature and Governor Chris Sununu.
Within the coming weeks, we’ll witness the first convening of a new legislative study: The Commission to Study Offshore Wind and Port Development. The commission has been tasked with investigating a host of issues relating to this fledgling industry — economic development opportunities potentially chief among them. The commission is the result of Senator Watters’ SB 668, part of the recent omnibus HB 1245 signed by the governor last month.
Governor Sununu is strongly supportive of offshore wind, as evidenced by his establishment of working groups by executive order. The legislative commission will coordinate with those efforts and ensure full stakeholder engagement, including, for example, organized labor and fisheries.
In addition to the legislative commission, the bill also included the creation of a new office under the Department of Business and Economic Affairs — the Office of Offshore Wind Development — to further provide state support for the industry. While the office has yet to be funded, the hope is it can foster a robust offshore wind industry here.
It’s worth considering the next steps our state must take. Several areas require expedited and unified legislative, executive agency, educational institution, private sector and union response. They include: workforce development, especially in technical training; port, manufacturing, and energy transmission infrastructure; and ramping up of partnerships with existing and new businesses.
If we want to fully capitalize on these developments, these efforts must commence now. It’s imperative that we determine an approach that delivers anticipated lower electric rates.
To achieve the enormous economic potential we must also look to our neighbors and collaborate in the pursuit. Transmission considerations, supply chain and workforce development, research needs, the leasing of federal sites, and port resources all require interstate cooperation. The scale of the proposed market alone requires the inclusive involvement from all New England states and the energy suppliers in the ISO-New England framework.
The opportunity of this new industry cannot be overstated. But to truly realize its full potential, we must act now and find ways to work together.