By Tim Vaill, Senior partner and CFO at Anbaric Development Partners and Kevin Knobloch, Senior research fellow at the Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
Feb 22, 2018, 1:00pm
Logan Airport is an essential part of Massachusetts’ economic infrastructure — without it, we couldn’t be a global hub for health care, education, finance, biotechnology and clean energy. But imagine if we were designing Logan from scratch and kicked off the process by inviting Delta and JetBlue to locate and build their individual gates first and only later decide where to place and pave the general-purpose runways.
As Massachusetts is taking its first steps to build significant offshore-wind generation 25 to 30 miles off our shores, we are in danger of building the gates first and worrying about the runways later. This situation would thwart the full promise of establishing a world-class offshore-wind industry here in the Bay State.
In our airport metaphor, the gates are the wind farms that will contribute to the 1,600 megawatts of offshore-wind energy required by Gov. Baker’s 2016 energy bill. The runways are the transmission infrastructure that will relay those clean electrons to homes and businesses on shore. If the planning is done upfront with thoughtful infrastructure design and siting, we can and should ultimately build up to twice the megawatts of wind capacity off the Massachusetts coast. This would result in many more jobs related to manufacturing turbines, towers and blades, along with testing, transportation, staging and assembly of those components, and ongoing repair, maintenance and upgrades.
Building the essential foundation for a large-scale industry will only be possible if Massachusetts acts now to plan, design and build a shared, independent offshore transmission system — the backbone of the new industry. Doing so would allow us to locate a few central offshore collection stations that each offshore wind farm would tie into, and to run only a few transmission lines from those to substations on shore.