Vineyard Wind is the choice.

The Baker-Polito administration announced this afternoon that the company has been selected to move forward to contract negotiations for the state's first offshore wind energy procurement. Vineyard Wind was one of three companies, along with Deepwater Wind and Bay State Wind, vying for the opportunity to procure 800 megawatts of offshore wind power for Massachusetts, the largest single procurement of offshore wind by any state in the nation.

Erich Stephens, Chief Development Officer for Vineyard Wind, told WBSM News the company was "cautiously optimistic" it would be selected for the project.

"We thought we might be selected for some amount, but it was a bit of a surprise to be selected for 800 megawatts," he said.

One of the companies not selected did get a nice consolation prize, as the State of Rhode Island announced today it would enter into contract negotiations with Deepwater Wind to procure 400 megawatts of offshore wind energy.

The Baker-Polito administration also announced it will work with the fishing industry and establish a Southern New England Fisheries Science Panel on Offshore Wind, comprised of respected scientists from New England, to ensure both the wind and fishing industries can effectively share the waters off Massachusetts.

Stephens said Vineyard Wind has had an ongoing dialogue with the fishing community, and expects that to only increase going forward.

"We've been talking to the fishing industry, at least some aspects of it, since 2009," he said. "Actually, we were the first of the different developers to hire a fisheries representative, a former fisherman that had to retire from right here in New Bedford, to work with us to identify areas that are more heavily fished, and less heavily fished, and what the different issues and concerns are that the fishermen have."

Stephens said that Vineyard Wind has had meetings with over 100 different fishermen or fishing organizations so far, and that they're increasing the amount of outreach and communication now that they've been selected for the project.

"We recently hired a fisheries liason officer, in addition to our fisheries representative, so there are a lot of productive conversations going on," he said. "We think we're really getting to a place where we can address most of the issues, and find a way forward so that both of these industries for New Bedford can continue well into the future."

Mayor Jon Mitchell issued a statement about what the selection of Vineyard Wind means to New Bedford.

“Today marks an important milestone in New Bedford’s long effort to cultivate the development of the offshore wind industry here. With the selection of New Bedford-based Vineyard Wind as the developer of Massachusetts’ first industrial-scale offshore wind farm, we are witnessing the arrival of a 21st-century energy industry in the United States that holds great promise for both the environment and our port economy," he said. "I congratulate the Vineyard Wind team on their selection and look forward to working closely with them to ensure the success of the project and maximize the benefits to Greater New Bedford.”

The Mayor also extended congratulations to Deepwater Wind on its selection by the State of Rhode Island to construct a 400-megawatt project in federal waters between Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

“The State of Rhode Island’s simultaneous decision to award a contract to Deepwater Wind is also a very positive development for New Bedford, and we look forward to building on our strong working relationship," he said.

Since the 2016 renewable energy law authorized Massachusetts to purse 16,00 megawatts of offshore wind energy, the state also will pursue a second procurement. It expects to issue a second solicitation by next June.

Vineyard Wind is expected to begin construction of a wind farm 15 miles off the southern coast of Martha's Vineyard in 2019, and for the turbines to go online by 2021.

Stephens said Vineyard Wind already has a presence on the docks of New Bedford, with five research vessels currently working on an offshore survey.

"We're already using New Bedford at high capacity, and it's only going to increase as we go forward into the construction phase," he said. "So you'll feel it and see it here in New Bedford before too long, in terms of people getting to work building these projects and building the industry."

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