Cape Wind signs lease agreement with state to use New Bedford for staging of turbine project

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NEW BEDFORD, Massachusetts — The developers of a proposed wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod have signed a lease agreement with the state to use New Bedford for staging and construction of the 130-turbine project, officials announced Friday.

Gov. Deval Patrick joined Cape Wind officials in making the announcement at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center's Wind Technology Testing Center in Boston, the largest wind blade testing facility in North America.

"Cape Wind is not just going to serve Massachusetts," Patrick said during the event. "It's going to be built in Massachusetts."

Officials said the work will begin in January at the South Coast Marine Commerce Terminal on the New Bedford waterfront. The terminal has been specifically designed to handle the heavy loads associated with the staging of offshore wind projects and is the first facility of its kind in North America.

The two-year lease agreement calls for Cape Wind to pay the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center $4.5 million in rent for use of the 28-acre facility. Cape Wind is expected to begin operations at the site in January.

Construction of the terminal began last year and is scheduled to be completed in December. It's located inside New Bedford Harbor and protected by a hurricane barrier. The terminal was engineered to sustain the heavy loads of some of the largest cranes in the world.

Developers of the project say construction of Cape Wind will create about 400 jobs and help support up to 1,000 more while also helping make the state a national leader in the development of renewable energy.

"Massachusetts will be an important hub for offshore wind projects for decades to come," said Cape Wind President Jim Gordon.

Cape Wind had previously signed lease options with both South Terminal, now formally called the Massachusetts Marine Commerce Terminal, and Rhode Island's Quonset Point.

Gordon said Cape Wind will file a request for modification of its construction plan with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to allow the use of the New Bedford site.

Audra Parker, president of Alliance for Nantucket Sound which is opposed to Cape Wind, said she's skeptical of the promised jobs and said the decision to use New Bedford as a staging area will require additional federal review.

"Cape Wind has announced every year since 2005 that it will begin construction next year," Parker said in a statement. "But in 2014 as in previous years, they continue to face significant legal challenges, financial hurdles and quickly approaching deadlines," Parker said.

When built, the project could be the nation's first offshore wind farms.

A much smaller five-turbine Rhode Island wind farm planned for off the coast of Block Island has also been given final approval by the federal government. Deepwater Wind plans to begin construction offshore next summer and begin operating the wind farm in 2016.

Cape Wind, which has been in the planning stages for more than a decade, is also expected to being delivering energy by the end of 2016 with the project fully completed by 2017.

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