Study shows Vineyard Wind’s economic benefits

Research was done by UMass-Dartmouth Public Policy Center.

This map from the Vineyard Wind website shows the area 15 miles off Martha's Vineyard where a proposed wind farm would be located.

A study released Monday by Vineyard Wind and produced by the Public Policy Center at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, found that the offshore wind project will be a boon to the regional economy, and produce as much as $17 million per year in state and local tax revenue.

The Public Policy Center found that the vast majority of the wind farm’s workforce will come from southeastern Massachusetts, including the Vineyard.

Three companies have submitted bids to locate wind farms about 15 miles off the southern coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Vineyard Wind is affiliated with Vineyard Power, and has vowed to locate its operations and maintenance operations on the Island, which would provide a stable year-round business for the Vineyard’s seasonal, tourist-centered economy, Michael Goodman, executive director of the Public Policy Center, told The Times: “There are economic benefits for Dukes County, the Cape and Islands, and southeastern Massachusetts.”

All of the applicants had to prepare an economic impact study as part of their applications. Vineyard Wind chose the Public Policy Center to add a level of credibility to the process, Erich Stephens, chief development officer for Vineyard Wind, said. “We wanted to demonstrate that our project will have a positive economic development benefit for southeastern Massachusetts in particular,” Stephens told The Times.

The Public Policy Center is a university-affiliated research center studying local, regional, and state issues to help public policymakers make informed decisions, Goodman said. “We’re analysts, not advocates. We stand behind this analysis as solid, credible, and conservative,” he said.

Among the findings in the report is that there will be 3,658 years worth of full-time work in Massachusetts between 2019 and 2047, the life expectancy of a wind farm.

The project is expected to employ 1,706 to 2,120 workers, and as many as 3,432 of the project’s job-years will be located in southeastern Massachusetts.

Goodman explained that the study uses job-years because there are so many variables in wind farm construction, including weather, that it makes it difficult to nail down timing.

The jobs are expected to be highly skilled and well-paid jobs. The average pay will be between $78,000 and $85,000, which compares favorably to the average pay of $67,444 for all of Massachusetts, and $48,148 for southeastern Massachusetts, according to the study.

“These are quality jobs that will require highly skilled workers during staging, construction, and operations and maintenance,” Goodman said.

Vineyard Wind, which is competing with Bay State Wind and Deepwater Wind, has committed to locating its operations and management on-Island.

In working on the project, Stephens said one of the things that struck him is how much the Vineyard wants these good-paying jobs.

“As a non-Vineyard person, we tend to see all sorts of economic activity related to tourism and second homes,” he said. “I’m surprised Vineyard residents and communities would want to see offshore wind jobs coming to the Island … They’re well paid, and you can make a career out of them, so it makes sense once I think about it.”

The addition of year-round employment will have a “positive and stabilizing impact” on the Vineyard’s economy, Goodman said.

A side effect to Massachusetts offering the first offshore wind farm is that it could lead to manufacturing jobs to provide components for similar wind farms across the country.

“More than dollars and jobs alone, a stable source of clean, domestic energy is much needed here in Massachusetts,” Goodman said. “It positions Massachusetts to be a leader in this offshore wind industry.”

Overall, Stephens said the study found what the company expected on jobs, though it had never done the math on how much tax revenue would be created. “The job creation part of the study was reassuring,” he said.