Home » 'People said this was never gonna happen': Brayton Point to reap benefits of offshore wind – Fall River Herald News

'People said this was never gonna happen': Brayton Point to reap benefits of offshore wind – Fall River Herald News

by Arifa Rana

SOMERSET — Talk about strange bedfellows.
It’s no secret that Commercial Development Co. Inc. has been at odds with number of Somerset residents during the past year and a half.
A lawsuit, filed in Massachusetts Land Court last January by the Missouri property redevelopment company’s Brayton Point LLC against three residents and the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, is testament to that fact.
But the recent announcement of two state power purchase agreements for two competing offshore wind farm companies and related investment projects have drawn positive reviews from both sides.
The electricity will travel via underground cable from the offshore wind farm to the former Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, where it will connect to a converter station, which in turn will link to a nearby National Grid substation.
Commercial Development Co. Inc. in 2018 paid just under $9 million for the 306-acre site on Mount Hope Bay, which for more than five decades was home to Brayton Point Power Station — which came to be known as the largest and most-polluting coal-fired electricity plant in New England.  
The new owners said they envisioned an offshore wind energy company eventually leasing some of the 140 acres of usable land on the property for maintenance and manufacturing.
In the interim, however, the company has been leasing space to two New Jersey businesses, one of which imports, stores and sells anti-freezing road salt to municipalities. The other specializes in shipping out truckloads of scrap metal loaded onto sea freighters.
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The latter has infuriated many residents in a residential neighborhood bordering the site, who complain of industrial dust being blown onto their homes and vehicles.     
They’ve also charged that scrap metal trucks making frequent runs into the site create noise and dust.
Brayton Point LLC is asking the land court to vacate a cease and desist order from the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals that would shut down the scrap metal operation. The company alleges that the ZBA’s decision was based on an incorrect and arbitrary “no-dust” standard.
Three women who live near Brayton Point, who previously appealed to the ZBA to enact its cease and desist order — and by doing so reverse a prior approval by the then-building inspector for a “dust plan” at the site — are also named in the suit.
One of the three residents, Kathy Souza, lives near Brayton Point and the Taunton River. She was also elected this year to the Board of Selectmen.
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Over a year ago, Souza created a Facebook page called Save Our Bay Brayton Point that now has 4,200 friends and followers.
Souza said while she remains intent on shutting down the scrap metal operation, she also welcomes the prospect of companies involved in the renewable and wind power industry setting up shop at what Commercial Development Co. Inc. refers to as Brayton Point Commerce Center.
“We welcome industry and true tax revenue, but it’s not acceptable to me to pollute the neighborhood in the interim,” she said.
Both the Mayflower Wind company and Vineyard Winds and its Commonwealth Wind project were approved on Dec. 17 by the state and a trio of utility companies for power purchase agreements totaling just over 1,600 megawatts of electricity production.
Mayflower, which is a joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell’s Shell New Energies and Ocean Winds — itself a joint venture of Engie SA of France and Houston-based EDP Renewables North America that is part of Madrid-based EDP Renewables — was awarded 400 megawatts to install wind turbines in a lease area 20 miles south of Nantucket.
The company was also awarded 804 megawatts as part of a previous power purchase agreement with the state.
Its competitor, Vineyard Wind, was recently awarded 1,232 megawatts for its Commonwealth Wind turbine project in the same offshore region.
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Owned by Avangrid Renewables, which is part of Avangrid Inc. in Connecticut, Vineyard Wind had previously been awarded 804 megawatts for a wind farm on an adjoining, federally designated lease area.
That ocean parcel will be used for Avangrid’s Park City Wind project, which will provide power to Connecticut residents.
Iberdrola, a multinational electric utility company based in Madrid, owns part of Avangrid Inc.
Commonwealth Wind is expected to begin operating by the end of 2023; Mayflower Wind has said it could become operational in 2025.
Both companies say their investments will create thousands of jobs.
Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration has said that the companies’ offshore wind projects will eventually satisfy 25% of the state’s electricity needs for homes and businesses.   
Baker, in his State of the Commonwealth address last January, said the state is committed to attaining net‐zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Mayflower Wind has stated from the inception of its offshore wind plan that it wants to use 8 acres at Brayton Point where subsea power cables will connect to a new onshore, high-voltage direct current converter station.
An alternating current cable will then link to the existing, nearby National Grid substation.
Anbaric Development Partners of Wakefield is assisting and providing expertise to Mayflower Wind to connect to the grid.
Brayton Point also stands to get a piece of the Commonwealth Wind pie.
Avangrid Renewables recently announced that an Italian company called Prysmian Group plans to build a facility in Somerset to manufacture subsea transmission cables. It said as many as 200 jobs could be created at the Brayton Point site.
The company also plans to build an offshore wind assembly and turbine staging port in Salem Harbor for the Park City Wind and Commonwealth Wind projects.
Avangrid says the deal was put together by a team under Bill White, president and CEO of Avangrid Renewables’ offshore project office in Boston.
“A lot of people said this was never gonna happen,” White said during a phone interview.
He gives credit to Somerset resident and state Rep. Pat Haddad and state Sen. Michael Rodrigues for their support through the years.
“I remember 10 years ago spending time with Pat Haddad to identify a location for this dream of offshore wind,” said White, who at one time worked for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.
“This gives me particular pleasure,” he said.
Steven Collins, executive vice president of redevelopment for Brayton Point LLC, said the latest offshore wind developments — and especially Prysmian Group’s plan to create a manufacturing site at Brayton Point — bode well for his company and the entire region.
“It’s extraordinary,” Collins said. “It’s great news for Brayton Point, the SouthCoast, Somerset, Vineyard Wind, Mayflower Wind and the state. It’s all good.”
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Collins said, in addition to job creation, the town of Somerset stands to benefit from increased tax revenue.
Brayton Point Power Station at one time had more than 250 workers and generated $16 million in property taxes.
The town collected $675,000 in property taxes in fiscal 2021 from the Brayton Point site, according to the office of Somerset’s office of the treasurer and tax collector.
That number has increased for the current fiscal 2022 to just more than $1.2 million, after an assessment was conducted following a vote last January by the three-member board of assessors, according to assessor Pam Lee.
Haddad said the Prysmian Group for years has quietly been manufacturing cables in two buildings in North Dighton.
She said it’s not clear whether the company will either buy or lease land at Brayton Point, but that a deal is close at hand.
“Nothing’s for sure until the ink is dry on the paper, but all the stars are aligned,” she said.
Haddad said Prysmian never asked for any kind of a tax rebate or discount: “They’re doing this for the sake of the industry and so the town can move forward,” she said.
She says it’s gratifying to know that Mayflower Wind has an agreement with Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding in Somerset to build a crew transfer vessel — and that it also intends to establish an operations and maintenance facility at the Borden & Remington Corp. industrial site across the Taunton River in Fall River.
“I think they’re working very hard to be good neighbors, and so is Vineyard Wind,” Haddad said.
Charles Winokoor may be reached at cwinokoor@heraldnews.com. Support local journalism and subscribe to The Herald News today.

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