Ground broken for New Bedford terminal project

After 12 years, Cape Wind is hoping to build the country's first offshore wind project off Nantucket, and New Bedford is ramping up to be the shore sidebase for the job.

City and state dignitaries marked the start of construction of the planned New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal during a groundbreaking ceremony Monday.

Mayor Jon Mitchell said fishing is the city's lifeblood. But as textiles took over from whaling, fishing may be eclipsed by wind.

As a schoolboy's science project demonstrates how wind creates electricity, the assembled politicians want to show how wind makes jobs.

"There are 20,000 jobs that the U.S. Department of Energy estimates will come from offshore wind development here in the United States," Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass., said.

Mitchell's perspective includes a recent trip to two German ports that now support wind farms.

"In the last 10 years, both of those places had 25 percent unemployment. It's down to single digits now and the reason is because of the development of the offshore wind industry. We're looking to do the same thing here in New Bedford," Mitchell said.

The work has already started with dredging that will deepen the channel to 35 feet. The pier will be expanded to 22.8 acres. If everything goes on schedule, the site should be ready in two years.

Cape Wind and Rhode Island-based Deepwater Wind are both hoping to have the first offshore wind project on the East Coast, but Deepwater spokesman Jeff Grybowski said who's first isn't as important as getting these projects up and running.

"For this industry to build out, we're going to need lots of big pieces port infrastructure. So, Quonset is important. New Bedford's important. The whole region gets jobs," Grybowski said.

The investment in renewable energy comes at a cost. The long-term contract for Cape Wind pays nearly 19 cents a kilowatt hour compared to about 15 cents for conventionally generated electricity.

The state's environmental and energy secretary says that will cost the average household in Massachusetts less than a $1 a month. The political establishment believes that's well worth the job creation and energy security.