Offshore wind a campaign favorite

Salem's designated port area around Salem Harbor Footprint - shown here under construction - includes about 42 acres of undeveloped land that could be used to support the state's developing offshore wind industry. The topic was the centerpiece of an event sponsored by Salem Alliance for the Environment last week. 

SALEM — The city’s top candidates for mayor both support the idea of redeveloping the open Footprint land to support offshore wind farms.

Mayor Kim Driscoll outlined the city’s growing support for offshore wind at a virtual event hosted by Salem Alliance for the Environment last Thursday night. The meeting was also attended by Ward 7 City Councilor Steve Dibble, who along with Frank Perley are challenging Driscoll in the Sept. 14 mayoral preliminary election.

Since February, city officials have been teasing the idea of the designated port area around Salem Harbor Footprint -- which includes about 42 acres of undeveloped land -- being used to build wind turbines that would then be set up out in the ocean.

Interest surged in June when Footprint invited wind energy companies to reach out with expressions of interest in the property. By July, the state signed on with Salem in exploring the idea, backed by $100 million from Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration to support port development in Salem, New Bedford and Somerset.

“We see this as an exciting opportunity for Salem, for Massachusetts, for our planet,” Driscoll told the group. “We’re still learning an awful lot on offshore wind but feel this could be a promising way forward in our community, and I say that knowing the harbor and waterfront have really been key to Salem’s prominence going back centuries.

“To think about our ability to harness the harbor, the wind as a means to bring economic success here just harkens back to the days that tiny clipper ships sailed around the world and brought back amazing and exotic goods,” Driscoll continued. “So much of our current modern-day success is tied to the things that happened here during the great age of sail. Can we harness the harbor once again to benefit the community? We think that answer is yes.”

Dibble applauded a change in focus on the property, which in the past year mentioned as supporting new housing in some form. In March, Footprint officials proposed splitting the open space almost evenly between marine-industrial uses and mixed-use development, which would combine homes with first-floor businesses like much of downtown Salem.

By April 2, however, company officials had changed their tune with the already established support for offshore wind from the Harbor Port Authority, of which Driscoll is a member.

The site could also support manufacturing facilities for “main components, i.e. foundations, turbines, cables, etc.,” also needing 30 to 50 acres, read Driscoll’s presentation. Operations and maintenance for wind farms, including warehouses, facilities for technicians and more, could also move forward and use about 5 to 20 acres of space.

But the clock could be ticking. The state has an open procurement window for a contract off the coast of Cape Cod that would bring between 400 to 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power to Massachusetts, according to Driscoll. Offshore wind companies must submit proposals by Thursday, Sept. 16, and any of those proposals could lean on Salem if the companies are including Footprint. 

Dibble, for his part, said the city needs to get in the game now rather than waiting until the next round, as getting behind wind this late in the process could prove costly. That said, offshore wind is also just one option for the site.

“We shouldn’t just be talking about offshore wind. We should be talking about greater public access to the waterfront, to the property,” Dibble said. “We should be talking about higher-paying marine jobs, research, boat building. There are many things we can do on the property at the same time.”

To respond to this story or suggest another, contact Dustin Luca at 978-338-2523 or DLuca@salemnews.com. Follow him at facebook.com/dustinluca or on Twitter @DustinLucaSN.

||||

Trending Video

Recommended for you