New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell: 10 Questions About Offshore Wind
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell is pretty pumped. A project his administration has been working on since he took office is finally coming to fruition.The mayor took to X to share his excitement about the first wind turbine in the United States to be a part of a utility scale offshore wind farm. It's happening right here, right now in New Bedford.
Question #1: Why is this wind turbine project so important to you?
JM: "Living as a kid in New Bedford I can remember seeing factories closing, seeing friends and family unemployed. I remember those days. As mayor now, I felt very strongly that we need to get out ahead of our economic circumstances. This is why we've been pushing offshore wind."
Question #2: How long did it take to complete the first wind turbine?
JM: "It's been long and coming. You think about this industry that started 30 years ago in Europe and is just now arriving in the United States, and it's arriving here in New Bedford first. It's something we've been working on for a long time, really since the day I got into office.”
Question #3: How are local fishermen reacting to this project?
JM: "There have been protests in other parts of the country, but we haven't seen that here. I think that's attributed to the fishermen here in our city and our region and the fishing business owners here. A lot of them are skeptical, but others are jumping right into offshore wind. The general tone is open-minded."
Question #4: How long will it take for all the turbines to be installed?
JM: "A little over a year. There will be 62 installed, and each of them take about a week to install once they are manufactured. The first wind turbine is officially up, the substation is built, and there are cables running from the turbines to the substation. An export cable runs from the substation to land. Vineyard Wind assembled the turbines, which stand at 850 feet high and have blades 350 feet long. The first assembled parts are now heading for installation."
Question #5: How can New Bedford win this offshore wind "race"
JM: "We want to be seen as a leader in the offshore wind industry. We want New Bedford to be known as a place where the industry convenes along with fishing and the maritime industry. People need to feel like if they are in offshore wind they need to have a foot in New Bedford, sort of like a software company needs a presence in Silicon Valley."
Question #6: How long are the wind turbines designed to last? What happens after their lifespan?
JM: "Twenty to 25 years, depending on the project. They probably will last longer than that.
Question #7: What happens after the wind turbine's lifespan?
JM: "Eventually, they reach the end of their useful life and are decommissioned. Some might be replaced entirely, while others might have new blades put up, extending their life for another 25 years."
Question #8: How many full-time, local jobs will be created from offshore wind?
JM: "The job estimates can be misleading. We don't embrace each forecast out there because many are framed in terms of job equivalents like how long somebody works on a project as opposed to somebody that's permanently employed. It gets complicated. However, in Europe there are ports just like New Bedford with factories, maritime businesses, and maintenance facilities all supporting offshore wind. That translates to thousands of jobs.
Question #9: What do you say to people concerned about how the turbines affect whales and other marine life?
JM: "There are lots of whale deaths. Different species of whales have died for various reasons. Some have been caught in fishing gear, while others have died from diseases. It's not completely known. The fact is that the first turbine was just put up, but whales have been dying for years without windmills in place. They haven't been colliding with these things because they haven't been there."
Question #10 When will we start enjoying the benefits of the offshore wind?
JM: The $4 billion project is estimated to power 400,000 homes and businesses. Electricity from some turbines is set to reach the Massachusetts grid as early as next month.
As we wrapped up our conversation with Mayor Mitchell, he emphasized the importance of collaboration between government, industry, and the local fishing communities in harnessing the potential of offshore wind energy.
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