Gerrymandering – The Salamander that Could… and Did

Written By: Liz Anusauskas

In 1812 Elbridge Gerry, the Democratic- Republican Governor of Massachusetts, did something practically unheard of. He let Democratic-Republicans in Massachusetts use their political power to redraw district lines to ensure a victory for the Democratic-Republican Party in the state senate election. After Gerry signed a bill to make this kind of redistricting legal, a cartoon was put into a local newspaper that made the Boston district he had drawn look like a salamander. The name “gerrymander” comes from a combination of Elbridge Gerry’s name and the famous salamander from the cartoon.[1] Ever since then, politicians have been altering district lines to fit their needs.


Cartoon from 1812 depicting a salamander in the shape of the congressional districts surrounding Boston. This cartoon highlighted the absurdity of gerrymandering early on. [2]

As required by federal law and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the current system for drawing district lines takes population distribution, compactness of a district, and minority votes into account.[3] Every ten years the decennial census is administered to all citizens and the information gathered from that survey is used to both redistrict congressional lines and to reapportion the number of congressional representatives in each state. This census data contains important information that can tell those doing the redistricting how many citizens to put into each congressional district as well as the diversity of citizens that should be included in each district. A poor count by the census can lead to unfairly drawn districts and poorly apportioned states. In addition, census information is influential in determining federal funding for projects like schools, housing vouchers, and Medicare – and with 600 billion dollars of federal funding on the line, a dramatic miscount will lead to a poor dispersion of these funds.[4] However, a miscount can also give incumbent politicians an opportunity to map their districts in ways that guarantee future electoral victories, making the data from the census critical to this process.

In the 2018-midterm election, voters approved ballot measures in four states to prevent and limit gerrymandering. Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Utah all passed ballot questions to limit partisan redistricting. In Colorado, Michigan, and Utah voters approved the creation of an independent commission to draw congressional and legislative districts. In Missouri the people voted to appoint a state demographer and to use a statistical model for the redistricting process. Ohio passed a ballot measure that would ensure both parties are included in the process of approving new congressional districts. The push for these ballot questions showed the deliberate efforts of voters to curb gerrymandering before the 2020 Census, which will affect the results of the 2022-midterm election.[5]

Gerrymandering commonly occurs in two distinct ways, both of which heavily contribute to wasted votes. Wasted votes are defined as all the votes a party wins after they have won the majority. For example, if a party wins 80 percent of the votes, the 30 percent of votes won after winning over 50 percent are wasted. They are wasted because they are votes for a party that were not needed to win in a particular congressional district, but could have been influential in changing the results of another congressional district that hosted a closer race. The gerrymandering techniques that create wasted votes are known as “packing” and “cracking.” Packing occurs when politicians load up voters of the opposing party into one district leaving the rest of the districts empty of the opposing party’s voters. This creates easy, noncompetitive wins in the majority of the congressional districts. The party that has packed this district can then make other districts less competitive because the opposing party’s votes are “wasted” in the packed district. To crack districts, a party creates an artificially competitive district by dividing voters of the opposing parties into many districts so that they never hold the majority, but the districts seem a little more competitive. An easy way to tell if a congressional district has been gerrymandered is to look at whether or not it was a competitive district and to compare which party gathered the highest number of votes in the state with the number of seats in Congress they won.[6]

The graphic below showing results from Wisconsin elections from 2008-2012 highlights the fact that a party might gain the majority of votes, but still win less overall seats in the state assembly. Packing and cracking is further explained and visualized in the graphic under the Wisconsin chart.


These charts show how Wisconsin Democrats began with control of the state assembly prior to the 2010 census, but lost control after the subsequent redistricting that resulted from efforts by Republicans in 2010. From 2007 until 2010, Democrats controlled both the Governor’s seat and the Senate and in 2009 gained the majority in the House as well. In the 2010 election, Republicans won the Governor’s seat and the majority of seats in both the House and Senate giving them the power to redistrict congressional lines in their favor according to data from the results of the 2010 census. Ever since that year, Wisconsin Republicans have controlled all three majorities even in years when they do not garner the majority of votes. The only change to these results was during the midterm elections last fall when Democrats helped their governor get elected. [7] In the 2012 election, after the districts had been rearranged, the Democrats lost control of the state assembly even though they continued to get more votes in the state overall. In 2012, Democrats won 53 percent of the votes statewide, but Republicans won over 50 percent of the available seats in the state’s assembly. In 2016, Republicans garnered 53 percent of the votes statewide, but managed to win about 65 percent of the assembly seats. In a perfect world the percentage of votes statewide a party receives would be equivalent to the percentage of seats a party wins in the state legislature.
These two graphics show what packing and cracking look like using blue and orange houses to represent two different parties. Notice how the cracked districts look more competitive with more of the orange house spread out, but in the packed districts the only two districts that the orange party wins are the ones made up of only orange party voters.

The idea of wasted votes contributes heavily to one solution brought to the Supreme Court from Wisconsin: a call for gerrymandering to be identified according to the efficiency gap. In recent history, the Supreme Court has seen an abundance of cases citing significant gerrymandering and in each case the largest difficulty has been in finding proof that gerrymandering is the singular reason a party lost. The efficiency gap has been utilized in these instances to explore the idea that state legislatures, who agreed upon redistricted maps, understood that these maps would leave a lot of wasted votes for a specific party in the majority of congressional districts. To explain how this is identified I will use an example of Party A and Party B. Let us say that Party A always wins the majority number of votes by citizens across the state, but is the minority party within the state legislature (meaning it holds less seats in the assembly). Since Party A always wins more votes than Party B statewide, Party A argues that Party B gerrymandered the districts to ensure Party B wins more seats in the state legislature. To prove that Party B gerrymandered congressional districts, Party A shows that the efficiency gap is so wide that it benefits Party B. To begin, Party A looks at one of the congressional districts they won and subtracts the total number of votes cast for their party by the number of votes they need to win a simple majority in that district. This solution is the number of wasted votes in that district. This subtraction is done the same way in all the other congressional districts they won. In the districts they lost, Party B’s votes are subtracted instead. Party A the adds up the total number of wasted votes from each district, adds together totals for all the districts Party A and B won, and then subtracts Party B’s wasted votes from Party A’s wasted votes. This number represents the efficiency gap between the two parties that benefited Party B. The further the number is from zero the more wasted votes that party had. Since the number of votes that contributed to Party A’s wasted votes will be a negative number, the lower the efficiency gap is the more it is clear that Party B gerrymandered.  This example, highlighting how effective wasted votes can be, is important in explaining how gerrymandering can be a completely biased process.[8]

The Supreme Court has postponed three of the four cases about gerrymandering that started last year, to be addressed later this year, meaning a final verdict on these problems will not be heard for a while. In Wisconsin, the Supreme Court decided there was not enough evidence to prove redistricting from the efficiency gap and their three-part test. The Supreme Court ruled to hear the case after the North Carolina and Maryland cases have been heard. [9] In the case heard for League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania v Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania had success in changing congressional lines. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the General Assembly of Pennsylvania had to redraw the congressional districts in time for the 2018 midterm elections. The governor and legislature did not agree on the redrawn map so, the Pennsylvania Supreme court released the congressional map that was used during the midterm election.[10] North Carolina will see its case heard in the Supreme Court in late March after a panel granted the motion to stay the opinion to redraw the lines until further review. [11] All of these cases prove how difficult it is for courts to make decisions on gerrymandering and how each case of gerrymandering is uniquely different.

Another way to prove that gerrymandering contains a partisan bias was developed by two mathematicians. In 2014, Johnathan Mattingly and Christy Vaugh created a method to randomly simulate the drawing of congressional districts. Using the outcome of North Carolina’s 2012 election, in which Democratic House candidates received a majority of the vote but only won 4 out of 13 districts, they ran a bootstrap estimate of 100 simulations to determine how many Democratic candidates would win, on average, if districts were randomly drawn. They found that, for all simulations, the Democrats always won between six and nine seats – randomly drawn districts never produced a map where only four candidates triumphed. This proved that the probability of only four Democrats being elected was incredibly low, meaning North Carolina’s 2012 districts were unfairly gerrymandered, and did not reflect the “will of the people.”[12]

Independent commissions have become a common way for states to realign their gerrymandered congressional districts. Right now there are 13 states that use independent commissions as the means for drawing district lines. Instead of partisan commissions that could have a discernible bias, these independent commissions are usually made up of an equal number of Democrats, Republicans, and sometimes even a few independents. Whether these people are legislators, nonpolitical officials, or members of the public varies by state, but in every case an effort is made to decrease the effects of partisan bias. There are three types of commissions that are used by states that do not grant the full power of redistricting to the legislature: backup commissions, advisory commissions, and commissions who are tasked with drawing a plan for congressional districts. The number of people in these commissions and who nominates or appoints the people in the commission varies by state.[13]

In addition, Iowa uses its own method that is completely different than all of the other states. The Iowa commission is called the Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission, and state law requires that the legislature vote on plans created by a group of nonpartisan legislative staff members. The commissioners are required to create electoral maps without looking at political or election data so they can focus on population size and fitting the correct number of state house and state senate seats into each district.[14]

This map shows the types of commissions that each state utilizes in their redistricting efforts. The states in grey do not have an independent commission. It is not updated to show the changes to commission type that resulted from the 2018 ballot questions.

One proposed solution to unfair gerrymandering is known as the “shortest splitline algorithm,” or splitline districting. Splitline districting uses mathematical equations to divide districts by straight lines according to population density. Using Census data to calculate population and state shape, splitline districting can be completed with a computer program created by Ivan Ryan or by using a mathematical equation to determine where to draw the lines.[15] The biggest problem with splitline districting is that it ignores all political and geographical boundaries meaning, it might divide a house or a yard making it hard to tell which district people are in. The equations used to divide districts is shown below.

To the right is what Massachusetts looks like with districts divided by the splitline districting method. Below is the most up to date version of what congressional district lines in Massachusetts look like.
Photo on the right is from: https://rangevoting.org/SplitLR.html

North Carolina (shown below) has an even worse track record of gerrymandering. The original map depicts how district lines were drawn in 2014. The splitline districting used data from the 2009 population to map potential congressional district lines which is also shown below. The splitline map for Virginia is from: http:// https://rangevoting.org/SplitLR.html

In 2017 a team at FiveThirtyEight began The Gerrymandering Project to understand the effects gerrymandering had on people across the nation and to compare different ways people can lessen or increase the effects of gerrymandering. Galen Druke, a producer and reporter for FiveThirtyEight, traveled to Wisconsin, North Carolina, Arizona, and California interviewing professionals, politicians, civilians, and those affected by gerrymandering in their state. He discussed things from the Supreme Court case that started in Wisconsin, to a drop in the number of competitive elections in Arizona. Throughout his podcast series he looked into ways that helped minimize the effects of gerrymandering and ways that seemed to help at first, but may have disadvantaged other groups in the effort to fix the system.[16]

The Atlas of Redistricting is a resource created by the team at FiveThirtyEight that highlights the differences in voting results when district lines are created with a specific bias in mind. This atlas compares the effects of Democratic and Republican gerrymandering, the current districts, proportionally partisan districts, majority minority districts, highly competitive districts, compact (by county splits) districts, and compact (by a mathematical algorithm) districts. Viewers are able to take a closer look at most individual states or change the entire nation to each type of district setting. Each type of redistricting method is also summarized and ranked by category to determine which one has the highest compactness rank, country splits, majority-nonwhite districts, competitive districts, and efficiency gap. This atlas can be useful in trying to determine the best methodology for redistricting and which type of redistricting causes the most amount of harm. Below are some of the maps created by FiveThirtyEight to show the results of different settings.[17]

These maps were created by FiveThirtyEight to show the differences in election results when district lines are drawn to fit specific needs. The top two compare current districts with those drawn to increase the number of competitive elections while the bottom two maps show election results if Republicans and then Democrats had full power to gerrymander. These maps can be found on FiveThirtyEight’s website here: https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/redistricting-maps/

So far, congressional districts have been the focus of discussion because those are the districts that affect members in the House of Representatives nationwide and have a notorious history of being gerrymandered. The gerrymandered map by Democrats designed above by FiveThiryEight may look like it still has a lot of Republican districts, but many of those districts have a lower population density and therefore have fewer electoral votes in the Presidential election. In the example below, state and county borders are observed instead to highlight the fact that these borders, as well as congressional districts, can sometimes be misleading when showing election results because populations within these borders are not taken into account.

Cartograms rescale the size of states by a specific feature (in this case population) and are therefore better at representing election results by the number of people who voted for the Democratic or Republican candidates. This is useful when looking at Democratic districts, because urban areas and districts are more likely to vote for Democrats than rural, less populated areas. According to the PEW Research Center, the difference between the percentage of registered Democrats and Republicans is a lot greater in urban counties than in rural counties with Democrats being favored 62 to 31 in urban counties and Republicans being favored 54 to 38 in rural counties.[18] Below are some maps and cartograms created by Mark Newman from the University of Michigan, representing 2016 Presidential election results according to different factors. [19]

The maps above show election results from the 2016 election. The first one shows current state borders divided by states that went blue or red. The second map changes the shape of the US to adjust to the number of electoral votes that went to each candidate. For example, Illinois has 20 electoral votes and the majority of the population voted for Clinton, so the state of Illinois is blue and is bigger in the cartogram than in the original map since it represents more electoral votes.

Research was also conducted on the county level to show the differences in county results assuming everyone in a blue county voted for Clinton and everyone in a red country voted for Trump. The cartograms above highlight how populous some small blue districts are. Focusing in on Florida, the counties of Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade are small counties compared to the rest of the state, but much larger counties according to population which explains its explosion in the cartogram.

It is also important to take into account the fact that everyone in a county that went blue did not vote for Clinton. Just because the majority of the county voted for a candidate does not mean these districts were not competitive. This last set of maps above recognize this fact and make more competitive districts purple instead of simply red or blue. The cartographer used a scale that makes counties that voted 70 percent or more for Republicans or Democrats red or blue respectively and a county that received less than 70 percent of the votes for a single candidate a different shade of purple according to its competitiveness.[20]

The point of these cartograms is to show how easily districts can be misinterpreted. Whether you are looking at counties or congressional districts, the underlying issues that affect our elections need to be understood before one jumps to conclusions about interpreting these results. Election results do not always reflect true opinions and values of American voters. These two examples highlight the significant problems within our current system of voting and until direct action is taken to remove partisan bias and restore the power of one person’s vote, the democratic system will remain in jeopardy of misrepresenting its people.

Needless to say, improvements need to be made to our system of redistricting to ensure that politicians do not wield their political power to game the system. There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that district lines are fair and to give everyone an equal chance of winning. The independent commissions are a step-up from previous practices, and systems rooted in mathematical proofs or technological advancements that enable computer systems to calculate fair maps are another progressive way to improve the current system. Taking cases of gerrymandering to the Supreme Court is a quick way to make drastic changes and to create precedents for all other states to follow, but this should only be the beginning. Recognizing that partisan politics needs to be taken out of the redistricting process, public citizens, legislators, and researchers must come together to push for immediate change using fact based methods to prove the legitimacy of gerrymandering as well as the legitimacy of alternatives to contemporary redistricting methods. To do so requires a greater study of gerrymandering and the current suggestions for new redistricting methods. Until everyone has a full understanding of the problem that citizens and legislators truly face when a district is gerrymandered, it will be impossible to find the perfect solution. With the integrity of our nation’s elections at stake, investing time, energy, and resources into new ways to redistrict should be a top priority.


Extra Links Addressing Other Issues and Explaining Other Pieces of the Gerrymandering Problem

Awareness for gerrymandering has improved following its immediate effects on recent elections, and a multitude of resources and videos have been produced. One of the better explanatory videos is from CP Grey here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mky11UJb9AY . The Washington Post also does a good job at explaining how it works here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/business/gerrymandering-explained/2016/04/21/e447f5c2-07fe-11e6-bfed-ef65dff5970d_video.html

Another fun piece of evidence is the Gerrymandering Gallery which has a few pieces of “art” (severely gerrymandered districts): https://rangevoting.org/GerryGal.html

Turning gerrymandering into a game is a perfect way to grab people’s attention. The USC Game Innovation Lab created the Gerrymandering Game in which you are tasked with redrawing the lines while pleasing a multitude of different bureaucrats on all sides of the political spectrum. Not only do you learn how redistricting works, but you also get a better sense of the political pressure people face when trying to redraw lines. Play here: http://www.redistrictinggame.org/

Another way state legislatures tilt the scales in their favor is to use their power to gerrymander areas with prisons. Prison gerrymandering is when districts are drawn around prisons in states that do not allow prisoners to vote, but count them in the district as though they have the ability to be a part of the electorate. This takes away the power of a persons’ vote because the district of eligible voters will be incredibly small since the district accounts for the number of people imprisoned. You can learn more about this problem here: https://www.prisonersofthecensus.org/toobig/exec_sum.html


Bibliography

[1] Trickey, Erick.(2017, 20 July). Smithsonian. Where Did the Term “Gerrymander” Come From? Retrieved 2019, February. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/where-did-term-gerrymander-come-180964118/

[2] N/A. Wikipedia. Gerrymandering. Retrieved 2019, February. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrymandering

[3] Knudson, Kevin. (2015, August 3). The Conversation. Can math solve the congressional districting problem? Retrieved 2019, February. https://theconversation.com/can-math-solve-the-congressional-districting-problem-44963

[4]N/A. (2019, February 26). National Conference of State Legislatures. 2020 Census Resources And Legislation. Retrieved 2019, February. http://www.ncsl.org/research/redistricting/2020-census-resources-and-legislation.aspx

[5] Neely, Brett and McMinn, Sean. (2018, December 28). National Public Radio.Voters Rejected Gerrymandering in 2018, But Some Lawmakers Try to Hold Power. Retrieved 2019, February. https://www.npr.org/2018/12/28/675763553/voters-rejected-gerrymandering-in-2018-but-some-lawmakers-try-to-hold-power

[6] Druke, Galen, host. (2017, November 30). FiveThirtyEight. Why Can’t We Just Burn Gerrymandering To The Ground? Retrieved 2019, February. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/why-cant-we-just-burn-gerrymandering-to-the-ground/

[7] N/A. Ballotpedia. Party control of Wisconsin state government. Retrieved 2019, February. https://ballotpedia.org/Party_control_of_Wisconsin_state_government

[8] Cameron, Darla. (2017, October 4). The Washington Post. Here’s how the Supreme Court could decide whether your vote will count. Retrieved 2019, February.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/politics/courts-law/gerrymander/?utm_term=.d34a307a5c46

[9] N/A. (2019, February 4). The Brennan Center. Gill v. Whitford. Retrieved 2019, February. https://www.brennancenter.org/legal-work/whitford-v-gill

[10] N/A. (2018, October 29). The Brennan Center. League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania v Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2019, February. https://www.brennancenter.org/legal-work/league-women-voters-v-pennslyvania

[11] N/A. (2019, March 7). The Brennan Center. Rucho v Common Cause. Retrieved 2019, March. http://www.brennancenter.org/legal-work/common-cause-v-rucho

[12] Knudson, Kevin. (2015, August, 3). The Conversation. Can math solve the congressional districting problem? Retrieved 2019, February. https://theconversation.com/can-math-solve-the-congressional-districting-problem-44963

[13] Underhill, Wendy. (2019, January 2019). National Conference of State Legislatures. Redistricting Commissions: Congressional Plan. Retrieved 2019, February. http://http://www.ncsl.org/research/redistricting/redistricting-commissions-congressional-plans.aspx#Other

[14] N/A (2018, April 6). National Conference of State Legislatures. The “Iowa Model” for Redistricting. Retrieved 2019, February. http://www.ncsl.org/research/redistricting/the-iowa-model-for-redistricting.aspx

[15] Written by the Center for Range Voting; algorithm invented by Smith, Warren; program to produce the images by Ryan, Ivan; data sourced from the US Census Bureau. “Splitline Districting of all 50 States + DC + Puerto Rico.” https://rangevoting.org/SplitLR.html

[16] Druke, Galen, host. (2017, November 30). FiveThirtyEight. Why Can’t We Just Burn Gerrymandering To The Ground? Retrieved 2019, February. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/why-cant-we-just-burn-gerrymandering-to-the-ground/

[17] Bycoffe, Aaron; Koeze, Ella; Wasserman, David; Wolfe, Julia. (2018, January 25). FiveThirtyEight. The Atlas of Redistricting. Retrieved 2019, February. https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/redistricting-maps/

[18] Parker, Kim; Horowitz, Juliana; Brown, Anna; Fry, Richard; Cohn, D’Vera; Igielnik, Ruth. (2018, May 22). Urban, Suburban and Rural Residents’ Views on Key Social and Political Issues. Retrieved 2019, February.http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2018/05/22/urban-suburban-and-rural-residents-views-on-key-social-and-political-issues/

[19] Newman, Mark. (2016, December 2).
Department of Physics and Center for the Study of Complex Systems. Maps of the 2016 US Presidential Election Results. Retrieved 2019, February. http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mejn/election/2016/

[20] Newman, Mark. (2016, December 2).
Department of Physics and Center for the Study of Complex Systems. Maps of the 2016 US Presidential Election Results. Retrieved 2019, February. http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mejn/election/2016/

Introduction: Undergraduate Research Assistant, Sal Balkus

Hi everyone! My name is Sal Balkus, and I am an Undergraduate Research Assistant at the Public Policy Center. I am from Franklin, Massachusetts, and I am currently a freshman at UMass Dartmouth, majoring in Data Science. I also serve on the university’s Honors Council, and I enjoy rock climbing and hiking with the Outdoor Club.

Working at the PPC provides an exciting opportunity for me to do social science research and apply my data analysis and statistics skills to a variety of data. I am passionate about all things data science and I hope to pursue graduate study, as well as a career in the field. As such, I am very glad that I am able to work a job on campus that is relevant to my future career goals and yields valuable experience that will aid me in the future.

Introduction: Undergraduate Research Assistant Liz Anusauskas

Hello, my name is Liz Anusauskas and I am an Undergraduate Research Assistant (Class of 2021) at the Public Policy Center at UMass Dartmouth. I will be a sophomore at UMass Dartmouth this fall, majoring in Political Science and Economics. I love playing frisbee, but every Saturday morning you will find me at the local Farmers Market in Worcester. I am from the central Massachusetts town of Auburn, where I have lived most of my life.

I wanted to work at the PPC because I am hoping to gain a better understanding of the work that goes into local projects and how that translates into large-scale state and nationwide effects. I have been thinking about pursuing public policy after I complete my undergraduate degree and I am looking forward to working with the wonderful people I have met here thus far to gain more experience in the field.

Are you up to it? What’s it like to work on a wind turbine?

The first working offshore wind farm in the U.S. has been producing electricity for more than a year, with its five 6-megawatt turbines spinning three miles off of Rhode Island’s Block Island, the first “toes in the water,” so to speak, eliminating the islanders’ reliance on diesel energy, and sending the surplus into the New England grid.

The future of offshore wind off the East Coast and in the Northeast particularly, where several states are setting the pace for the rest of the country, draws closer each day to the installation of utility scale offshore wind farms, with hundreds of turbines, gigawatts of energy, and thousands of jobs.

Figure 1: Installation of the last blade on the five turbines of the Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island. Photo courtesy of Deepwater Wind.

For a look at what a utility scale facility might look like, it’s handy to turn to YouTube, where offshore wind developers, manufacturers, vendors, and others have documented utility scale offshore wind in the establish European industry beginning at the end of the last century.

The massive pieces assembled to complete a turbine can weigh hundreds of tons, and their arrays will occupy hundreds of acres. The work of installing and operating a wind farm is a big job, with tasks both familiar and exotic.

To get a look into a utility size offshore wind farm, I’ve scouted out a couple dozen YouTube videos showing a number of the activities associated with them. I’ll start with those that deal with the work performed by the folks who work on offshore wind farms.

Take a look at an 8-minute video published in 2016 by Samuel Hawkins depicting a wind farm worker’s helicopter transfers to and from a turbine on his last day of work on the U.K.’s Westermost Rough wind farm off the eastern coast of Great Britain. It documents an OSW technician’s last day offshore, and shows some helicopter hops from turbine to turbine, the embark/disembark process, and a great perspective of the transfer process.

A video from the Betendiek wind farm, a German North Sea project about 25 miles west of the Denmark German border, offers a look at the Operations & Maintenance workers, pilots, and emergency responders going through some offshore training. They perform drills for medical evacuations, hard helicopter landings, and helicopter fires (without real fire or other emergencies, so fear not for the workers). The video was produced by Deutche Windtechnik, which operates the farm, in 2016.

Another video from the Westermost rough farm demonstrates the deceptively mundane act of transferring workers to and from their duty stations. It’s a task that takes place over and over, all day, every day. For the people who work these O&M jobs for offshore wind farms, wherever they may be, the process becomes routine. For the uninitiated, being delivered to and retrieved from the massive wind turbines looks more like an extreme adventure vacation. Some of the training and experience the OSW workers undergo is seen in this video from 2015, also by Samuel Hawkins.

Speaking of extreme, this Weather Channel video documents the mind-boggling work of an onshore turbine technician whose path into the field began while mountain climbing with her father as a child.  In the 2017 video, she is seen dangling from the hub of a turbine in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in order to repair the tip of a blade that had been struck by lightning. She looks very comfortable, despite operating power tools while hanging from a rope tied to the hub.

A 2015 video published by Lars Bulow shows a crew transfer by boat rather than helicopter. It’s not a fancy video, and it’s less than 5 minutes long, but it offers another look into this exotic, growing field of offshore wind power.

Finally, a 6-minute video from Broadcast Media Services in 2014 fills in the gaps of what goes on between the crew transfers. “The best part of the job?” the subject asks: Being on top of the turbine. “On a clear day, you can see 40 miles.” The worst part? “When you have to use the toilet you have to climb all the way back down to the boat.”

These several videos show some of the routines, requirements, and extremes experienced by those who work on the turbines in this blossoming industry. Are you up to it?

What the Offshore Wind Industry Could Mean for Massachusetts

Residents of Massachusetts and other states along the Eastern seaboard are experiencing the arrival of a new base industry for the state—offshore wind. Offshore wind is a distinct industry from onshore wind, owing to the vastly larger size of the wind turbines and the logistical complexities of working out on the ocean. The largest turbine on the market—the 12 MW turbine designed by General Electric—stands at 853 ft. The Prudential Building by comparison (not including the antenna), towers over much of Boston at 749 ft. With the arrival of this industry will come well-paying, white and blue-collar jobs in regions of the state that have relatively high unemployment. The industry also has the potential to expand the Commonwealth’s advanced manufacturing sector and create new markets for the state’s maritime and marine technology sectors.

The offshore wind industry got its start in Europe in places like Denmark and Germany. It then crossed the North Sea to the United Kingdom. As will be the case for Massachusetts, the UK offshore wind industry found its home ports in some of the more beleaguered cities of the country—places like Hull and Grimsby. These cities are similar to the Gateway Cities along the SouthCoast of Massachusetts—having lost their traditional industries but possessing untapped potential in their industrial ports. Now they are home to various facilities to serve the OSW industry: from operations & maintenance facilities to training facilities, from research facilities to factories. These facilities serve the OSW industry across Europe and create ripple effects in other areas of the economy.

Despite the relatively short distance between England and their blade facility in Denmark, Hull eventually became home to a Siemens blade manufacturing facility that now employs over a thousand workers. Originally, Hull was slated to become home to a nacelle factory, but the blade factory was a better match for the local workforce. Key leaders in Massachusetts have learned from this experience and are working to ensure that the Massachusetts workforce is prepared to seize emerging job opportunities. The workforce study commissioned by the Mass Clean Energy Center and being prepared by the PPC, Bristol Community College, , and Mass Maritime is a key step in that direction, by giving workforce development professionals the information they need to prepare the local workforce for the near term construction and operations & maintenance jobs.

Factors that will determine the speed and size of OSW industry growth in Massachusetts include the cost of the electricity produced by OSW as well as more generally, the size of the pipeline for new projects, the availability of shore-side infrastructure, and the extent to which the state obtains first mover status, which can lead to agglomeration effects as the supply chain co-locates. The cost of OSW is dropping rapidly, with the first subsidy-free OSW farm poised to be built in the Netherlands. According to a study conducted by the University of Delaware, OSW costs in Massachusetts will get down to 10.8 cents per kilowatt by 2027 (the deadline to procure 1,600 MW in OSW power). This is still much higher than for natural gas (5 cents per kilowatt), but costs will continue to fall as the local supply chain develops and technology improves.

The movement of the supply chain to Atlantic Coast is likely to happen much more quickly here than in the U.K. owing to the cost of transporting the massive components across the Atlantic (needless to say a longer trip than across the North Sea) and the emerging size of the U.S. market. While manufacturers we interviewed are keeping their location considerations close to the vest, they consistently noted that the U.S. is a major emerging market that is too big to ignore. When Siemens made their decision to open a blade facility in England there was estimated to be a 5 MW pipeline of projects, though this estimate turned out to be optimistic. Our analysis conservatively estimates a pipeline in the Northeast U.S. of about 4.6 MW of nameplate capacity, depending on capacity factors, although this is a small fraction of the total available resource in the existing wind energy areas.

It is clear that the ability to take advantage of the potential of the OSW industry in Massachusetts relies heavily on the ability of our workforce, infrastructure, and business leaders to anticipate industry needs and emerging opportunities. Done right, the potential for the state is substantial. According to a study by the PPC prepared for Vineyard Wind, average wages for occupations in the industry are over $80,000 , which compares favorably to the state average wage of about $67,000. Jobs range from white-collar legal and finance positions; to scientific and technical positions; to well-paying, blue-collar construction jobs; to long-term, stable jobs in operations and maintenance. Significantly, according to the PPC’s analysis of the Vineyard Wind project, about 90 percent of the Massachusetts jobs will be located in the Southeastern part of the state—an area that has fewer job opportunities than in Greater Boston and that includes sub-regions such as Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod, which struggle with the seasonal nature of their tourist-driven economies.

Furthermore, there is the potential to remediate and renew shoreside industrial sites such as the recently closed Brayton Point power plant in Somerset and Eversource/Sprague Oil site in New Bedford. Both must be used for water-dependent industrial uses given their location in Designated Port Areas, but would be very expensive to clean up for reuse. The companies in the offshore wind industry, which must locate by the water due to the size of the components, have the incentive to turn these properties around.

OSWEP is tracking these trends in an effort to inform an evidence-based industrial strategy. One year ago, the thought of local manufacturing related to offshore wind was a pie-in-the-sky idea to many. Today, it has been exciting to see how developers are already making commitments to procure some of the components locally, including crew transfer vessels for local boat builders Gladding-Hearn and Blount Boats and batteries from NEC Energy Solutions in Westborough. There has even been discussion of manufacturing some of the major turbine components on the SouthCoast, including towers, monopile foundations, and transition pieces. Ultimately, there will be OSW-related activity all along the Eastern seaboard and windfarm development will require a network of ports. However, the competition between states is fierce and there is a need for bold and quick action if Massachusetts wants to win the race.

Ready Player One – OSW Energy Price Parity? Game Over!

Massachusetts has the largest offshore wind (OSW) potential of any state in the contiguous United States. While many states are sparring for a piece of the OSW pie, it can be argued that Massachusetts is furthest along. Currently, three offshore wind developers have lease agreements to build projects in the federal waters south of
Martha’s Vineyard, and a decision on the first development is expected to be awarded by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources on April 23. With developers promising a construction start in 2021, the Massachusetts lease area will likely host the first large-scale offshore wind farm in the nation.

There are many factors driving development stateside: the presence of vast amounts of wind energy located relatively close to shore, in shallow water, and with significant population density close to these areas; the desire to diversify the country’s energy portfolio; environmental benefits of clean renewable energy; developers and manufacturers looking to open new markets; and the potential job and economic impacts for states. While each of these factors is a crucial element in the industry’s development, the primary catalyst driving OSW’s emigration from across the Atlantic are commitments by individual states to require power purchase agreements specifically for OSW. (Click here to learn more about state actions). As a result, the United States now has an OSW project pipeline worthy of European developers’ attention, especially knowing that these targets represent only a fraction of the total energy resources available off our Atlantic shores.

In the Bay State, the 2016 Act to Promote Energy Diversity directed Massachusetts electricity distribution companies to procure 1,600 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind by 2027. Other states, including Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island, have also set targets for OSW procurement. As of March 2018, the total amount of offshore wind set to be procured in the United States was between 4,595 MW and 4,745 MW of nameplate capacity, depending on capacity factors. Without these mandatory power purchase agreements, it is unlikely that interest in U.S.-based OSW would be developing at such an exponential rate, particularly since the U.S. does not offer energy subsidies that spurred much of the OSW development in Europe. Without the subsidies, OSW energy prices in the U.S. are still much higher than traditional fuels such as oil, gas, and hydro power.

However, offshore wind is becoming increasingly less expensive to produce. Costs have fallen more than 30 percent in the 15 years since the first wind farm opened. The Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) from offshore wind, which averaged about $240 (U.S.) per megawatt-hour (MWh) in 2001, fell to approximately $170/MWh by the end of 2015.”1 Recently, the price has dropped even further, bringing the LCOE down to $126/MWh in the second half of 2016. This is down 22 percent from the first half of 2016, and 28 percent from the second half of 2015. Subsidy-free wind farms are now being built in Germany and The Netherlands, with the auction results suggesting LCOEs in the range of $60/MWh to $100/MWh by 2020.2

Technological improvements and improved logistics will remain a key ingredient in lowering energy costs. The cost of financing will also decline as more projects enter the pipeline and investors perceive less risk in financing future projects. A larger pipeline will also spur supply chain efficiencies and lead to a more experienced workforce for subsequent projects, which become more efficient as workers learn by doing.3 State investments in infrastructure and workforce development may also help to reduce costs.

Thus, the question about price parity going forward is not if, but when. Admittedly, unless you have a flux capacitor and an old DeLorean, predicting the future is difficult. These are exciting times for the industry, and concrete answers to how quickly the industry will move and what it will look like in 10 years remain to be seen. But if the present is a predictor, it seems that U.S. OSW development advances more quickly than expected compared to even a month before (albeit much too slow for some). Just today, Bay State Wind (a joint venture between Ørsted and power company Eversource) announced that it signed a deal with a European manufacturer to build wind turbine components in Massachusetts (see: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/news/20180402/turbine-parts-to-be-made-in-ma-bay-state-wind-says). Importantly, if we want prices in the U.S. to quickly catch up to those overseas, we need to work quickly to continue to build the supply chain and logistics capacity here in the states.

Even though the task of building this industry in the U.S. while simultaneously working to drive down costs may seem daunting, the award is a win-win-win for many of the Commonwealth’s economic development, environmental, and energy goals. Clean renewable energy at the same or lower cost than fossil fuels, the promise of new jobs that run the gamut from blue collar trade workers to white collar scientists, and a new and expanding supply chain that supports both traditional manufacturing and the innovation economy? Game on!

[1] International Renewable Energy Agency. (2016). Innovation Outlook: Offshore Wind. Abu Dhabi.

[2] International Renewable Energy Agency. (2016). Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2017. Abu Dhabi.

[3] Kempton, Willett; Stephanie McClellan and Deniz Ozkan. (2016). Massachusetts Offshore Wind Future Cost Study. University of Delaware Special Initiative on Offshore Wind: Newark, DE.

What Will Determine Offshore Wind Supply Chain Development in the U.S.?

The ability of a region to support the development of the offshore wind (OSW) supply chain will greatly affect the size of the industry’s economic impact. The impacts of OSW are higher when the industry employs people from the region and spends its dollars at the region’s businesses because this keeps dollars in the community. Several factors will affect the level of local content:

Existing industrial base: The ability of a region to attract investment from a new industry is often tied to the presence or absence of similar or complementary industries. For example, the Gulf Coast states may be able to transition from making marine structures for oil & gas to those for OSW wind farms, which would help this region compensate for the drop in demand from the offshore oil & gas industry. The jacket foundations for the first OSW farm in the United States —the Block Island Wind Farm—were manufactured by Gulf Island Fabrication, a company that made large-scale steel structures for the offshore oil and gas industry. A similar pattern was observed in the U.K., with many of the workers with experience working in offshore oil and gas settings finding new employment opportunities in the OSW industry.

Local content requirements and supply chain investment: In the U.K., the development of an OSW supply chain has been actively promoted through local content targets and government investment. For example, the contract with the developer of the Humber Gateway Project in the U.K. specifically stated that local employment must be used. In addition, the U.K. government has contributed £20 million toward the Manufacturing Advisory Service Offshore Wind Supply Chain Growth Programme (GROW: Offshore Wind) and has set aside funding and resources to create the Offshore Wind Investment Organisation, a private-sector-led body to attract inward investment.[1] Local content requirements are not likely to occur in the U.S., where OSW development is being led at the state level, since the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution prevents states from passing laws mandating local procurement and hiring as they serve to restrict interstate commerce.[2] However, vigorous interstate competition to attract investment in OSW supply chain manufacturing facilities can be expected as the nascent OSW industry along the Eastern seaboard of the U.S. develops to scale.

Infrastructure: The massive size of modern OSW turbines limits the transport of finished products over land. As a result, the manufacturing of the primary, finished components must occur at waterfront locations with a large amount of acreage and a quay that has been reinforced to withstand heavy loads. For example, for OSW farms in the U.K., the tower pieces were sent in from Denmark or Spain and assembled on-site. Without a reinforced quay to accommodate on-site assembly and production, all components would have been imported fully assembled from Denmark or Spain, directly to the OSW farm. In addition, the height of some components limits the locations to those without height limitations from features such as bridges. One tower manufacturer cited the need for a 175,000- to 200,000-square-foot facility, Class 1 rail, 50 acres of storage with quayside access, and interstate access. A detailed assessment of potential sites in Massachusetts is provided by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Massachusetts has laid the groundwork for private investment in secondary locations for future turbine and foundation component manufacturing through MassCEC’s 2017 Massachusetts Offshore Wind Ports & Infrastructure Assessment.[3]

Logistics and the distance to ship components: The sheer distance to transport the components overseas from Europe may incentivize investment in U.S. manufacturing facilities. In one study, which examined the Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) for OSW in Denmark, the logistics cost was conservatively estimated to account for 18 percent of the total cost.[4] The distance to the U.S. market substantially increases these costs. For example, according to one European foundation manufacturer, it would cost tens of millions of dollars to import the foundations from European to the U.S for one 400 MW project.[5] In comparison, a new manufacturing facility in the U.S. Atlantic would cost up to $500 million to build and take three years to develop.

Workforce: The skills of the local workforce can play a large role in a manufacturer’s location decisions. For example, Hull, U.K. was originally slated to host a nacelle manufacturing plant, but to date this has not happened, reportedly because the region’s workforce lacked the electrical engineering and magnetism skills required. Instead, Hull became the home to a blade manufacturing facility, because they had the substantial deep-water port acreage needed and a workforce skilled in fiberglass manufacturing. In other words, blade manufacturing has skill requirements that better aligned with the capacity of the local labor market.

Size and timing of the pipeline: Manufacturers need to know that there will be consistent demand for their products before they make massive investment decisions. In the case of U.S. OSW developments, interview subjects consistently reported the need for a long pipeline of future OSW developments as a major prerequisite for establishing a U.S. manufacturing facility. One manufacturer described their expectation of a five-gigawatt pipeline in the U.K. when investment decisions were made. However, manufacturers we interviewed consistently noted that the Northeast U.S. is a major emerging market that is too big to ignore. The timing of OSW projects is also important. A dormant foundation factory, for example, can cost up to $6 million per year in facility debt alone. A steady flow of smaller, faster projects or larger projects with long lead times can be expected to increase the chances of a substantial investment in OSW production facilities in the U.S.

[1] Her Majesty’s Government. Offshore Wind Industrial Strategy: Business and Government Action. (2013). https://ore.catapult.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Offshore-Wind-Industrial-Strategy-Business-and-Government-Action.pdf

[2] Building Trades v. Mayor of Camden. 465 U.S. 208. (1984).

[3] http://www.masscec.com/ports

[4] Poulsen, T., & Hasager, C. B. (2016). How Expensive Is Expensive Enough? Opportunities for Cost Reductions in Offshore Wind Energy Logistics. Energies, 9(6), 437.

[5] Tim Mack, Head of Offshore Wind Development, North America, EEW. (2017). Presentation to the Clean Energy Center’s Offshore Wind Supply Chain Forum, May 31, 2017. [PowerPoint Slides.]

A Bad Case of Redaction

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ effort to create and sustain an offshore wind industry in the United States took a step forward with the receipt of bids Dec. 20 by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources from the three developers holding leases for parcels in the Massachusetts and the Rhode Island-Massachusetts Wind Energy Areas. The bids are public and have been made available by the Commonwealth.

Those following this process were eager to see the individual bids and the different proposals offered by the three developers, Bay State Wind, Deepwater Wind, and Vineyard Wind. However, each of the bids includes a great amount of redacted information, particularly concerning specifics about the size and number of turbines, contract terms and pricing, potential collaborators, and maintenance routines that explain how often turbines will be offline. Not only that, but dozens of appendices that are provided for DOER are completely redacted in the public versions.

Concerns about competition are justifiable, but can be frustrating for those interested in the process. Here are interesting examples of redactions from each of the developers:

The Commonwealth will have all the information when it analyzes the bids, but the public will not be able to compare electricity prices …

… or maintenance schedules …

… or my favorite, Section 17 from the Vineyard Wind proposal, which concludes the bid publication with a five-page redaction that blacks out even the title of the section.

A deeper dive into the redactions may be of little value as far as sleuthing out secrets. The bidders followed their own formats in response to the RFP so comparison is tricky, but it’s always fun for fans of statistics and data to look around regardless.

To wit, here is a simple chart showing redactions by developer, separated by section. These weren’t exhaustive counts of every single redaction or type of redaction, but of redactions under the labels of the different sections. For example, I counted 12 different types of redactions in the Executive Summary (Section 2) in the Bay State Wind bid. They ran the gamut, from pricing, capacity and number of permanent jobs, to impact on the Commonwealth’s carbon footprint to wind tower specifications. Deepwater Wind’s Executive Summary included redactions of environmental impact, jobs and specs, as well, but the section also saw information about infrastructure and contracts redacted. Vineyard Wind’s bid had redactions of only three types in the first section: pricing, turbine specifications and expansion plans. These disparities and similarities, however, offer very little analytical power because of the uniqueness of each bid, so these charts stick to the section labels.

They show generally that Sections 5, 6, 8, and 15 account for the most redactions. Not much surprise there, as legal and technical topics are most likely to address intellectual property, engineering, finances, and logistics that have an impact on competition among bidders.

Redactions notwithstanding, there is a lot to learn from the bids, particularly in the areas of worksites, benefits to low-income Massachusetts residents, research and collaborations, and energy storage solutions, among other gleanings.

Storage

Renewables like wind and solar, in addition to the relative immaturity of their industries, also present the challenge of intermittency: the sun doesn’t always shine; the wind doesn’t always blow. Each of the bidders has proposed storage solutions that allow for the eventual consumption of the energy generated by their proposed wind farms  when supply outstrips demand.

Two of the bidders propose battery storage systems, and each is unique. Bay State Wind proposes a storage system at the site of the onshore substation (perhaps at the defunct Brayton Point Generation Station in Somerset), with a larger system proposed for the larger of its two bids (800 megawatts MW vs 400 MW). Vineyard Wind proposes spending $15 million to create distributed battery storage, meaning the developer intends to subsidize the purchase of batteries by individual, low-income ratepayers.

Deepwater Wind’s bid proposes storing energy not in batteries but in water, at the Northfield Mountain Pumped Hydro Storage Facility in Turners Falls. Surplus energy will be used to pump water from a lower to an upper reservoir, and will be recovered when demand carries the water down again to spin dam turbines.

Shore Side Facilities

The purpose-built heavy lift facility the Commonwealth constructed in New Bedford—with the express purpose of supporting a new industry in offshore wind—has already attracted interest from each of the three bidders. Each has an office in New Bedford, and each plans to do much of the assembly, staging, and deployment in the construction phase in New Bedford, with some of the staging taking place at other locations, which may include the Port of Providence and Brayton Point, among others. Two of the developers—Bay State Wind and Deepwater Wind—have plans for most or all of the Operations & Maintenance (O&M) phase to be centered in New Bedford as well. Vineyard Wind, as its name suggests, plans to base its O&M in the town of Vineyard Haven.

Benefits to Low-Income Residents

A section of the Commonwealth’s request for proposals requires an accounting of what will be done on the behalf of low-income residents. Bay State Wind proposes to provide $17.5 million over 20 years to the Weatherization Assistance and the Low-Income Heating Assistance programs. Vineyard Wind aims to create a Resiliency and Affordability Fund, seeded with $15 million, that will help install solar and distributed battery systems. Deepwater Wind touts the savings for all ratepayers, noting low-income payers will be especially benefited, but proposes a specific program for low-income high school students to do dual enrollment on the campus of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Bourne, with an eye toward income-based tuition support. The Maritime Scholars’ program aims “to help Massachusetts high school students prepare for careers in the growing offshore wind industry,” according to the bid.

Onshore Substation Connection

Generating companies will have to bring the electricity to shore. Bay State Wind has set its eyes on the Brayton Point plant. Deepwater Wind redacted much of their discussion of decisions regarding the shore side connection, but does note the benefits of using that former industrial area and its heavy-duty infrastructure to bring ashore up to 1,000 MW, and, in the case of expansion up to as much as 600 MW, Deepwater notes the availability of the existing Davisville substation in North Kingstown, RI, which services their Block Island Wind Farm, which has been operating since December 2017.

Vineyard Wind proposes to bring the cable ashore near Yarmouth and Barnstable. The location of the farm, at the northeast end of the green Wind Energy Area in the illustration below, and its proximity to Martha’s Vineyard makes its Cape-based landfall seem obvious; the distance from Vineyard Wind’s proposed offshore substation to Brayton point is 10 to 15 miles farther than the distance to the Cape site.

The parcels leased by the other two bidders are both closer to Somerset’s Brayton Point than to Cape Cod.

Economic Development

Part of the application process is the bidder’s explanation of economic development and job training goals, with an obvious emphasis on local benefits. Bay State Wind promises to train and hire locally as much as is practicable, considering the lack of specialized workers in this imported, exotic (for us) industry. It has already secured commitments from vendors willing to move “significant new manufacturing facilities” to Massachusetts. It has also signed a memorandum of understanding with Bristol Community College specifically for offshore wind workforce development, and one with Mass. Maritime.

Vineyard Wind proposes a program called the Wind Accelerator, a four-pronged approach to help the Commonwealth take advantage of its position as an early mover in offshore wind. The training prong presents Vineyard Wind’s commitment to the development of a local workforce in concert with supply chain real estate and recruitment policies.

Deepwater Wind’s scholar program with the MMA appears to be the extent of its training programs, though as many as 80 high school students might eventually benefit from the scholar program. Deepwater Wind’s bid is replete with expressions of its commitment to the local workforce, promising to follow its example on the Block Island Wind Farm on local hiring and trades decisions.

Jones Act Vessels

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly referred to as the Jones Act, requires any goods transported from one U.S. port to another U.S. port be transported by U.S.-flagged vessels. The vessels needed in this new industry are large, expensive, and purpose built. Deepwater Wind constructed a five-turbine farm with workarounds that, logistically, would likely be insufficient for full-scale deployment. Bay State Wind stated in their bid that they’re working to see that Jones Act-compliant vessels are constructed, and Vineyard Wind’s attention to the item has had a great deal redacted, including interpretation of the law, implications on the projects, and Vineyard Wind’s proposed solution. Deepwater makes no mention of the Jones Act in its bid.

The Path Ahead

Reading between the lines is a challenge when so many are covered with black, but there is plenty more available in the thousands of pages submitted to the state. A state-designated Evaluation Team—including the state Department of Energy Resources, electric distribution companies, and a technical consultant—will evaluate the bids in three stages to determine eligibility and to rank the bids on the price competitiveness and economic and environmental impacts of each bid. Selections of the winning bidder or bidders will be made in April 2018, with the aim of submitting long-term contracts to the state Department of Public Utilities at the end of July.

The Sections

If your thirst for minutiae remains unsatisfied, here’s a list of the 17 sections contained in the DOER’s Request for Proposals:

Section 1: Certification, Project, and Pricing Data

Section 2: Executive Summary of the Proposal

Section 3: Operation Parameters

Section 4: Energy Resource and Delivery Plan

Section 5: Financial/Legal

Section 6: Siting, Interconnection, and Deliverability

Section 7: Environmental Assessment, Permit Acquisition Plan, and New Class IRPS Classification

Section 8: Engineering and Technology; Commercial Access to Equipment

Section 9: Project Schedule

Section 10: Construction and Logistics

Section 11: Operation and Maintenance

Section 12: Project Management/Experience

Section 13: Emissions

Section 14: Contribution to Employment and Economic Development and Other Direct and Indirect Benefits

Section 15: Additional Information Required for Transmission Projects (and All System Upgrades Associated with Proposed Transmission Projects)

Section 16: Exceptions to Form PPAs

Section 17: Response to Transmission Tariff/Contract Requirements

Disclosure

The UMass Dartmouth Public Policy Center was a contractor for the portion of the Vineyard Wind bid involving job creation, Section 14. The PPC is expected to be used by Vineyard Wind to track economic development metrics if that bidder wins an award from the Commonwealth.

The 2020 Census and The Importance of the Hard-to-Count Population

By Robert Stickles

Every decade, when an updated version of the U.S. Census is published, questions regarding the accuracy of the information arise – and for good reason. The U.S. Census Bureau has the monumental, overwhelming task of counting every person in the United States and recording basic information such as race, sex, and age. But how can the Bureau accomplish this without making any errors? Well, it is almost impossible to collect perfect data without any mistakes, especially because many populations throughout the country are considered “Hard-to-Count.”

According to the Census Bureau, the groups that are especially difficult to gather data for are racial/ethnic minorities, linguistic minorities, lower income persons, homeless persons, undocumented immigrants, young mobile persons, and children. The government reported that in 2010 alone, the U.S. Census missed more than 1.5 million minorities nationwide after experiencing difficulty in counting black Americans, Hispanics, renters and young men. On the other hand, it was also reported that parts of the U.S. population had been over-counted, largely due to duplicate counts of affluent whites owning more than one home.

So, why is it crucial for U.S. Census to collect accurate data? To examine this topic, it is important to understand what the Census is used for. For the most part, the U.S. Census is used for population and demographic information. Population counts plays a large role in the way the government is run, as the correct population figures ensure that every community is given full representation in the halls of government. On top of that, the Census also assists in making the decisions regarding the distribution of public funds when it comes to educational programs, healthcare, law enforcement, and highways. If up-to-date population data are not available, areas of the country might not get their fair share of state Representatives or public funds.

The Hard-To-Count Hot Spots in Massachusetts and Greater Boston

Source: The Census 2020 HTC Map developed by the CUNY Mapping Service at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center.

In Massachusetts, many of the hard-to-count populations appear to be located in or around the larger cities such as Boston, Worcester, New Bedford, Fall River, Taunton, and Brockton. Boston, the largest city in Massachusetts, faces the largest challenge in obtaining data for every person. In 2010, there were many tracts in Boston where fewer than 60 percent of households mailed back their 2010 Census questionnaire.

For Massachusetts, this means that anywhere that there is a large population of “Hard-to-Count” individuals, entire communities may not get the funding or the political representation that they need to fairly serve and provide for their citizens.

Introduction: Undergraduate Research Assistant, Robert Stickles

Hello Everyone,

My name is Robert Stickles and I am an Undergraduate Research Assistant here at the Public Policy Center. I am currently a sophomore at Umass Dartmouth, where I am majoring in Finance and minoring in Accounting. Before attending Umass Dartmouth, I went to Tabor Academy for four years and also attended Stonehill College for one year, where I studied Business and played on the men’s ice hockey team. I grew up around the Cape Cod/Buzzards Bay area and in my downtime, I can usually be found at one of the local beaches or partaking in other outdoor activities. I enjoy assisting in the gathering of research that will help to strengthen towns and communities. The team here has been extremely welcoming and I am eager to contribute to the Center.