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Groton company gets spotlight for connection to offshore wind

New London — It’s called the ThayerCat, a catamaran-style power boat being converted into an autonomous unmanned marine vessel that can do things like monitor marine mammals and help mitigate noise during construction of offshore wind turbine platforms.

That was one of several innovative projects on display during a tour of Groton-based ThayerMahan on Friday, a 5-year-old company that U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, called “one of the most exciting new companies in the state of Connecticut.”

ThayerMahan is also a company that stands to benefit from the reinvigoration of the offshore wind industry under President Joe Biden. Biden’s administration has said it plans to accelerate permitting and boost financing for offshore wind farms.

ThayerMahan is performing high-tech seabed surveillance work with cutting-edge technology and recently was selected to receive a share of the $8 million made available by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium for its work with undersea cables, a project that could help reduce impacts on the ocean environment of work proposed by the offshore wind industry.

Courtney was joined on Friday’s visit by ThayerMahan CEO Mike Connor, Ørsted Offshore North America CEO David Hardy and others to talk about opportunities in clean energy manufacturing, particularly connected to the offshore wind industry.

ThayerMahan is contracted to perform work for Ørsted, the company that has joined with Eversource in development of several offshore wind farms and contributing more than $77.5 million toward the modernization of State Pier in New London.

Connor said the Groton company, which performs some work for the government, sea bed surveys and underwater infrastructure inspections, works with the submarine and shipbuilding community and expects ongoing maintenance work associated with marine projects to ensure environmental compliance as well as marine mammal safety.

Courtney said ThayerMahan is connecting highly educated employees to high-value jobs in the region and is a “development dream for any state or community.”

President Biden this week announced a commitment to lowering U.S. carbon emission rates by 50%-52% from 2005 levels in economywide net greenhouse gas pollution by 2030, Courtney said.

“Really what’s happening in this workplace is connected to the offshore wind renewable energy trend, which I think is critical and essential in terms of if we have any chance of achieving the goal the president set out yesterday,” Courtney said. “This is a piece of it — the technology that’s going to be required to make sure that offshore wind operates efficiently and safely really depends on the work that happens here at ThayerMahan.”

ThayerMahan is working with Ørsted to perform acoustic monitoring and site investigation work critical to understanding where to place turbines and cables, Hardy said. He said Ørsted would look to companies like ThayerMahan as it finds ways to do things “better, faster and cheaper.”

“If they can bring technology that changes the way we do the work in a more efficient, safe and less expensive way, then we’re open to bringing those technologies into our organization,” Hardy said.

Ørsted, which operates the first and only offshore wind farm in the U.S. — Block Island Wind Farm — has several offshore wind projects still in the federal permitting process.

State Pier in New London is expected to serve as the staging area for Revolution Wind, the 704-megawatt wind farm to be constructed off the coast of Rhode Island, and other projects. Hardy said Ørsted expects that its South Fork Wind project, a planned 15-turbine wind farm off Long Island, will be the first under construction and is expected to be operational by 2023.

He said Ørsted is committed to its projects in the U.S. and excited by Biden’s support for renewable energy.

“We want to take everything Ørsted has learned from its global experience, European and Asian experience, and bring that here but we also want to create the supply chain and the workforce and the technology and we want to improve it,” Hardy said. “We don’t need to take everything they’ve learned here. Lets take the American ingenuity to the industry and make the industry better and take that ingenuity to them. Partnering with a company like ThayerMahan is a perfect example of how we can do that.”

With recent news that cost estimates for work at State Pier in New London have risen to $235.5 million, Michael Ausere, vice president of renewable energy development for Eversource, said the joint venture partners would work closely with the Connecticut Port Authority, from a design perspective, to help control costs while maintaining the full function of the pier.

g.smith@theday.com

Editor's Note: Revolution Wind is a 704-megawatt wind farm to be constructed off the coast of Rhode Island. Information was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.

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