Senate Bill 152 would create a committee tasked with exploring the workforce needs of a Gulf of Maine offshore wind industry. (Sarah Vogelsong | Virginia Mercury)
The anticipated development of wind power off New Hampshire’s coastline will require a workforce likely numbering in the thousands.
Though a project is still years away from becoming a reality, a group of senators is urging the state to start looking toward the future now, potentially through the creation of an offshore wind workforce training center.
Passed in the state Senate last month by a voice vote, Senate Bill 152 would create a committee tasked with exploring the workforce needs of a Gulf of Maine offshore wind industry, including the possibility of a training center conveniently located near the Port of Portsmouth. The committee would also make a plan for including Seacoast-area career and technical education centers, Great Bay Community College, and union apprenticeship and training programs.
The prime sponsor of SB 152, Sen. David Watters, a Dover Democrat, introduced it in the context of New Hampshire’s critical workforce shortage. A workforce training center, he said, would service and bolster a Gulf of Maine project.
The nation’s first utility-scale wind farm being constructed 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, Vineyard Wind is expected to ultimately create 3,600 jobs, for example. In the blue-collar city of New Bedford, Massachusetts, which will have several key sites related to the development, that could mean an economic boom.
In its first annual report submitted last fall to the Massachusetts Department of Energy, Vineyard Wind said its development phase from 2017-2021 produced 666 jobs, $59.3 million in labor income, $79.1 million in value added, and $166.6 million in economic output.
Requested by Gov. Chris Sununu in 2019, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management convened a Gulf of Maine task force with New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. Sununu, in an introductory letter as part of a state report last year on the potential for offshore wind, wrote, “New Hampshire is uniquely situated to benefit from this new industry in ways that will attract investment, boost the state’s economy, and create good paying jobs.”
The Gulf of Maine could see up to 12 floating wind turbines generating up to 144 megawatts of renewable energy, the BOEM has said, and the proposed area is located approximately 37 miles off the coast of New Castle. A series of public meetings held in January, including one in Portsmouth, updated on the progress.
Maine has submitted an application to the BOEM to lease a limited site about 44 miles off the coast of Portland for the nation’s first floating offshore wind research site in federal waters.
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