MassCEC pays $10M for New Bedford parcels, signs SouthCoast Wind as tenant

MassCEC pays $10M for New Bedford parcels, signs SouthCoast Wind as tenant

NEW BEDFORD — The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center is expanding its presence on the city’s waterfront, striking three separate deals for a total of $10 million to acquire real estate formerly owned by major seafood companies and inking a long-term lease with offshore wind developer SouthCoast Wind. 

The acquisitions are all properties surrounding MassCEC’s Marine Commerce Terminal, which is currently leased to Vineyard Wind and stacked with the massive components for the nation’s first large-scale offshore wind farm. As part of the expansion, MassCEC has now signed a long-term lease with SouthCoast Wind, according to property records, making it the second of such offshore wind projects to anchor on the New Bedford waterfront. 

“We strongly support MassCEC’s plans to expand the terminal,” Rebecca Ullman, director of external affairs for SouthCoast Wind, wrote in a statement to The Light. She said that SouthCoast Wind will use the facility for turbine marshaling and pre-assembly, similar to how Vineyard Wind is currently using it.  “However, our project is larger than [Vineyard Wind], and we plan to use larger turbines,” she added. 

MassCEC purchased three properties in the South End industrial complex this year. In February, it bought 18 Wright St., the main facility for Quality Custom Packaging, a scallop supplier, for $5.75 million. MassCEC then purchased 54 Wright St., a property then owned by managers of Eastern Fisheries and leased to marine supply store T&K Marine Electronics, for $2.7 million. 

Wind blades for the Vineyard Wind project at the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal are stored next nacelles. MassCEC has paid $10 million for parcels surrounding the terminal. Credit: Eleonora Bianchi / The New Bedford Light

Then, in March, MassCEC bought 250 So. Front St., the infamous former headquarters of Carlos Seafood. The company shut down operations in 2017 when owner Carlos Rafael was forced to divest from the fishing industry as part of a 46-month prison sentence for falsifying fish quotas, cash smuggling and tax evasion. The Carlos Seafood facility was being used as a processing hub for Nantucket Sound Seafood, which is now moving its operations to Fall River. 

“It was the best thing that could have happened. My tenant was moving out. The state stepped up to the plate.” Rafael said in a brief interview with The Light. He said he had to sign a non-disclosure agreement to close the deal with MassCEC, but added: “I got paid very well. We’ll leave it at that.” Property records show MassCEC acquired Rafael’s property for $2.3 million. 

MassCEC was not available for comment on Wednesday. But in April, speaking at a panel in New Orleans, MassCEC director of offshore wind Bruce Carlisle hinted that it would soon roll out a “very, very significant” expansion of the Marine Commerce Terminal. He told The Light in March that the agency’s focus in the coming years will be an improvement and expansion project, which includes work on the bulkhead and laydown area. 

SouthCoast Wind signed the lease with MassCEC on April 30, according to property records. A spokesperson for SouthCoast said it plans to take control of the Marine Commerce Terminal on Jan. 1, 2029. The rent schedule posted in the registry of deeds shows SouthCoast Wind will pay $12.3 million dollars per year beginning in 2026 for 30 acres of land and a 25,000-square-foot building. The rent will increase to $15 million per year between 2030 and 2033. 

MassCEC’s existing lease with Vineyard Wind runs until Dec. 31, 2024. 

SouthCoast Wind hit major setbacks in 2023. Citing inflation, supply chain disruptions and the war in Ukraine, the developer terminated its contract with the state’s Department of Public Utilities, hoping to renegotiate a power purchase agreement with more favorable financial terms. SouthCoast Wind was forced to pay a total of $60 million in termination fees. 

In March, the developer submitted a new bid to provide offshore wind energy to Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut — a sign that the 1,200 megawatt project was moving forward after the financial setbacks. 

Eleven years ago, MassCEC, which is a quasi-state owned agency, spent over $100 million to develop the Marine Commerce Terminal. At the time it was the only marshaling site capable of housing the massive components involved in offshore wind development. Since then, ports in Salem, Massachusetts; New London, Connecticut; and Brooklyn, New York, have been building similar terminals to attract offshore wind developers. The expansion makes New Bedford more competitive with the other ports vying for offshore wind contracts. 

“This is another important step forward in establishing New Bedford and the SouthCoast as a leader in the US offshore wind industry,” Ullman wrote. 

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on June 5, 2024 with comments from SouthCoast Wind.

Email reporter Will Sennott at [email protected].

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