Salem, a city once known for a massive coal-fired power plant, is receiving $33.8 million from the federal government for the renewable energy transition, federal officials said on Friday.
The funding will help the city carry out efforts to transform a vacant waterfront site, once used to store coal, into an offshore wind turbine marshalling yard.
The project will include installing a 700-foot-long wharf and bulkhead to assemble, stage, and store the turbines, which are difficult to accommodate at most ports because they can be as long as a football field.
The city has been planning the $180 million conversion for months. Last year, officials announced a public-private partnership with offshore wind developers Crowley Wind Services and Vineyard Wind to carry out the project. And earlier this month, Crowley Wind Services purchased the 42 acre plot from the city, saying it plans to begin constructing the terminal next summer and complete it 2025.
Once it’s open, Vineyard Wind intends to assemble components of its turbines at the new site for towers that will go up in waters south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
The terminal, which Crowley says will create more than 800 full-time positions, could be a gamechanger for Salem’s economy. According to Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, it could help replace jobs lost when the city’s old coal-fired power plant shut down in 2014. Non-governmental partners on the project have also committed to negotiating a Project Labor Agreement with local building trades unions, establishing strong labor protections, federal officials said in an e-mail.
The project will also bolster the Biden administration’s goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, and help Massachusetts achieve its ambitious climate goals. The state has pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, and expects meeting that target will require about 15 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2050.
The facility will make Salem Massachusetts’ second port designed for the nascent offshore wind industry. New Bedford is also developing a new offshore wind terminal and berthing facility, set to open in March 2023.
Salem is just one of 41 projects in 23 states that received a funding from the federal Port Infrastructure Development Program on Friday. The grant program was created in 2019, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which Biden signed last November, earmarked $450 million for it.
The funding comes as part of the Biden administration’s plan to modernize the nation’s ports.
“So many of the goods we all count on, from appliances to furniture to clothes, move through our nation’s ports on their way to us,” Department of Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg said. “Using funds from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this year we’re awarding record levels of funding to improve our port infrastructure, strengthen our supply chains, and help cut costs for American families.”
Dharna Noor can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @dharnanoor.