Vineyarders got a chance Thursday, April 28, to learn more about the jobs available to service and monitor Vineyard Wind 1, the nation’s first industrial-scale offshore wind farm. Vineyard Wind 1, which broke ground last year at the Centerville landfall site of its export cables, will have a significant presence on the Vineyard.
A maintenance marine terminal on Vineyard Haven Harbor for the 62-turbine wind farm has been largely approved and permitted, and a parcel was recently acquired at the old Hinckley lumberyard on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven for an operations and maintenance building. At Martha’s Vineyard Airport, a hangar has been secured for a maintenance helicopter operation. Companies that will place personnel at these locations set up shop in the Oak Bluffs library Thursday evening, pressing the flesh, handing out brochures, and at some career tables, offering virtual reality goggles for simulated travel to the soon-to-be-built wind turbines.
Among the companies at the job fair was General Electric, maker of the turbines to be used in the wind farm, and the company that will also maintain those turbines. With the turbines’ 853-foot height as measured to the tip of their rotors, comfortability with heights will be a prerequisite for those who’ll maintain the turbines.
About 20 potential employees visited various booths while The Times was at the fair.
Mike Hanson, General Electric senior manager of site operations, told prospective employees during a presentation that General Electric will be hiring 18 technicians of various levels, two lead technicians, a field engineer, two site managers, an environment, health safety and quality manager, a planner, and two warehouse managers.
Speaking to job seekers, Jennifer Cullen, Vineyard Wind manager of workforce and supply chain development, described the wind farm overall as a “utility-scale power plant” that will generate electricity sufficient to power 400,000 homes.
“This is the first project, but there are many more lined up after us,” Cullen said in reference to other wind farms slated for federal lease areas south of the Vineyard.
Cullen said New Bedford will be the “main construction port” for Vineyard Wind 1, but operations and maintenance “long-term jobs” will be in Vineyard Haven
Cullen also said Vineyard Wind has a lot of partners on the project, and gave a big nod to Vineyard Power, which she said helped the project in many ways. Vineyard Power president Richard Andre and Vineyard Power general manager Erik Peckar were among those greeting would-be wind farm personnel at the event.
Other Vineyard Wind 1 project partners include Semco Maritime, which will be installing and maintaining cables, foundations, and substations; Seaward Services, which will operate the crew transfer vessels, Avangrid Renewables, which will oversee the long-term operations of the project; and RPS, which will provide observers for protected species.
Operations and maintenance preparations engineering consultant Sarah Schweitzer told prospective employees what the estimated time was to reach the wind farm by boat and helicopter from the Vineyard.
“The transit time by vessel is about an hour and 45 minutes without any sea restrictions, and by helicopter it’s about 15 minutes,” she said.
Schweitzer also said the coming operations and maintenance building in Vineyard Haven will be erected on stilts to make sure it’s above any potential flooding in the area. Beach Road is close to sea level, and portions of it regularly flood.
In a brief interview with The Times, Richard Bowen, procurement director for Semco Maritime, said his company, which has worked on a number of European wind farms, enhances the local economy when it works on a wind project.
“Every community that we’ve moved into in establishing an offshore wind farm has experienced robust economic growth,” Bowen said. “In fact, we were in New Bedford yesterday talking with some local fishermen. They were worried about the fish. And we said the experience we’ve seen in Northern Europe, in Denmark for example, is that the wind farms actually create new habitat, and actually lead to an expansion of marine life, which actually improves the fishery. Sportfishermen especially love it. I know we’ve seen that around Block Island. What we’re going to do, we believe, is create really good, high-paying jobs … that have lots of opportunities for career growth. Even opportunities to take these skills and work on other projects.”
Bowen went on to say Semco will be looking to establish local supply chains, and has already spoken with Granite City Electric in Vineyard Haven to foster a supply relationship.