Two years ago, Massachusetts’ New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal — renovated with more than $100m of public funding so the state could capture offshore wind jobs — looked in serious danger of becoming an expensive white elephant.

Cape Wind’s developer had just cancelled its multi-year lease to use the terminal as a staging ground, having lost its power off-take deals for its pioneering offshore project. Earlier that year a competitive lease auction for additional development zones off Massachusetts had aroused only the faintest competitive interest; two massive zones were won for a total of less than $450,000, while two others drew no bids at all.