NEW BEDFORD – Community activist John "Buddy" Andrade understands why many have been skeptical about the long-awaited local job boon expected to come along with the offshore wind industry's activity in the Whaling City.
But now with Vineyard Wind set to take up temporary residence at New Bedford's Marine Commerce Terminal in January to begin creating the gargantuan-sized turbine blades for its wind farm, Andrade says locals looking for a career path cannot afford to doubt any longer.
"It's important to get people to know that it's now happening, because we've been talking about it for so long," Andrade said last week during the Wind Works Pipeline Tour – an event organized between Andrade's community group, Old Bedford Village Development Corporation, and Bristol Community College via the grant-funded Wind Works initiative, which is aimed at bridging any gaps between the economically disadvantaged and offshore wind opportunities. "That's why I really wanted people to see this stuff for themselves."
That said, rather than tell people about all the latest updates on the industry's upcoming work in the city, Andrade and other organizers made it a point to show them in-person where a lot of the action is set to take place.
The fresh air and exercise that came along with the day was a bonus.
Hitting the streets
The group met up at the Old Bedford Village Development Corp. headquarters in New Bedford's south central area before embarking on a walking trip about a mile down to the waterfront to visit the Marine Commerce Terminal, and then Foss Marine Terminal — two of the city's key sites for offshore wind development.
"Our work right now is all about giving the message to the communities right down the street that don't have the information needed to know what's coming," Bristol Community College Associate Director of Career and Technical Trainings Carlos Avila said.
Much of the type of work that will be done at, and out of, those two terminals — whether land-based jobs or offshore — will require the type of training that Bristol CC's National Offshore Wind Institute will provide, according to Wind Works organizers. "It is going to be a unique one stop training center for offshore wind," Bristol CC Director of Business Solutions and Partnerships Angela Johnston said, noting Bristol CC's roughly $15 million investment in the institute set to open at 198 Herman Melville Boulevard.
The institute, which Johnston says is expected to open in the first quarter of 2023, will offer certifications in standards defined by the Global Wind Organisation, or GWO. Johnston says Bristol CC should be finishing up its pricing structure and be ready to market the programming sometime in the fall.
First stop: Marine Commerce Terminal
At the Marine Commerce Terminal, staff members from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center — which manages the site — brought the tour group out back to see the expansive area where things like turbine blades and other heavy equipment can be safely unloaded and kept without damaging the ground.
As the small group looked out into the vast 30-acre space, Terminal Manager Jeannie Houde explained that "what looks like a lot of nothing" is actually what makes the terminal the first of its kind in the nation.
"There is 22 acres of heavy capacity loading area, which means that it's engineered and built to sustain really, really heavy loads," said Houde noting the extreme size and weight of equipment and the turbine blades themselves that will be constructed by Vineyard Wind when that work begins in January. "They'll be using this as essentially their construction base port for their operation."
Houde said Vineyard Wind and subcontractor General Electric will have the space to use for two years, but all the components being constructed and prepared should be moved offshore for any further work before then.
When tour member Ed Rogers asked if workers constructing turbine blades would be exposed to the elements through the potentially harsh winter months, Houde explained that the blades will be large enough for laborers to work within as a kind of indoor, temperature-controlled environment. "These pieces are massive so there's actually HVAC inside the components," she said.
Second stop: Foss Marine Terminal
From there, the group headed a little over a half mile north to the New Bedford Foss Marine Terminal at 30 Pine St., former site of an Eversource power plant. As terminal President Andrew Saunders explained, the site is in the process of being transformed into a facility similar to the Marine Commerce Terminal, with its capacity to handle the heavy load demands of the offshore wind industry.
"We've purposely stopped all the construction activity where we're going through," Saunders said as he led the group to the back of the property toward the water. "We're going to take down every structure on the site with the exception of the foundry building.... That will turn into office space for our tenants."
Saunders said demolition work is expected to wrap up in December, with necessary bulkhead improvements, as well as dredging by the city, set to take place in the months to follow. "So we could be operationally ready for certain work by Quarter 1 or Quarter 2 of 2023," Saunders said.
Initially, the Foss terminal will be parallel in purpose to the Marine Commerce Terminal nearby — more than doubling the heavy load space available along the waterfront for the huge components involved in a project's construction phase, Saunders said. But as wind farms begin to move on from the construction and commissioning stage and onto the subsequent phases of their life cycles — operation and maintenance, then decommissioning — Saunders said his plan is to evolve the site to match the changing needs of the industry.
"There is no wind farm that's out there right now, so there's no need for operation and maintenance. The only thing that will happen over the next two years is construction work," Saunders said. "And then as more and more offshore wind farms come online ... we will eventually move over into operation and maintenance."
So, what about the jobs?
As personnel from the two terminal sites explained, while job seekers could very well land a role working for either the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center or Foss directly, much of the long-awaited job creation associated with offshore wind will consist of job postings by other entities, such as labor unions. Being that there is no single all-encompassing answer to the question of where one should look for offshore wind opportunities, Andrade says reaping the benefits of the industry will be a matter of being in the know and finding the best fit for an individual.
"It's not just one pathway we're talking about," Andrade said, noting everything from computer data/information to technician work could tie in to the needs of a project. Even things like food delivery and transportation are areas of need that could see local expansion as a result of the offshore wind industry, Andrade said. But he knows many have been waiting patiently for information on industry-specific work and how to get the training needed for those jobs. For those answers, there are a number of actions Andrade and others recommend that can be done immediately:
Sign up with Old Bedford Village Community Development, Inc.: Don't let the name fool you — Andrade, who leads this group, says you don't need to be from the Old Bedford Village neighborhood to become part of its "bank" of job seekers kept on file and in mind for opportunities as they arise.
"We go through what we call an intake process — I'll counsel them, interview them, we'll do an application and I will work with them on figuring out the best pathway and connecting them to the right places to get them there," he said, speaking generally about his work with job seekers both young and old.
When it comes to getting into the offshore wind industry and associated educational programming, Andrade said he knows that the work of staying current on all the latest developments is a daunting task for many to undertake — which is why he and other group members continue to do their best to serve as disseminators of that information, as well as liaisons to other community groups.
"We have been the point persons for the community on this since 2008 when Cape Wind was on the horizon," Andrade said. "We have been up and down New England going to conferences. We're actually headed to Boston on July 18-19 for a large international conference on offshore wind.
"So what we want people to do is to register with us so that they can become part of the meetings and the informational sessions that will be coming over this next year or so. It's a lot activity from here on in and so people need to start now to get connected to the things we're talking about."
To connect with Andrade and Old Bedford Village Community Development, Inc., contact Andrade at 774-202-0603, or Obvdcbr@yahoo.com.
Follow Wind Works: Wind Works — the collaboration between Old Bedford Village Community Development, Inc. and Bristol CC, funded by a grant from Massachusetts Clean Energy Center — has a number of things going on to help locals stay connected to the latest news in offshore wind opportunities.
Aside from the website itself, Wind Works has started up social media campaigns as they try to reach those who could benefit the most from offshore wind career opportunities. "I'm trying to take the information and translate it into ways that will teach our target audience, which would be young adults in our local communities that can really benefit from being ready for these jobs," said Don Burton, who has been working with Wind Works on various projects. "We have an Instagram account based all around these interviews with young adults who are really on these career paths, and we also have a TikTok account where we started a dance challenge called the Wind Dance, so that will be going on throughout the summer."
Visit the Wind Works website and sign up for its mailing list at windworksforyou.com, or follow its accounts on Tik Tok and Instagram: @windworksforyou
For information on Bristol Community College's National Offshore Wind Institute, visit nowi.org.
Visit, bookmark these sites: Don't even know what type of positions offshore wind operations like the ones starting up in New Bedford involve? The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center has a resource on its website meant to help with just that, plus other areas within the clean energy fields. In the "career pathways" section of the site, job opportunities are listed and tiered from entry-level positions up to advanced, charting out various career paths to get from one point to another.
Visit the page at cleanenergyeducation.org/career-pathways
To browse job openings posted directly by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, visit www.masscec.com/work-clean-energy/jobs