New London’s ship has finally come in
New London ― There were no bands, no officials giving speeches and few cameras noting the moment as the Claude A. Desgagnes cargo ship from Denmark arrived here Friday morning and immediately offloaded by local longshoremen.
But it was a first in what New London and the state hopes to be a long relationship with the wind turbine industry. The Desgagnes’ cargo included the first, smaller components required to set up the Admiral Harold E. Shear State Pier as the state’s first offshore wind turbine assembly facility.
“It’s a huge milestone for the state of Connecticut,” said Ulysses Hammond, interim executive director for the Connecticut Port Authority. “It’s going to be major in terms of the economy, especially for southeastern Connecticut.”
Another ship from Asia, the Billie, has been anchored off Fishers Island and was expected to arrive Sunday with the same type of material and equipment. Both vessels were chartered by Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, the wind turbine supplier for South Fork Wind, the first local offshore wind project being assembled by the Danish company Ørsted and the Connecticut-based Eversource.
South Fork Wind is expected to be the first offshore wind farm in federal waters.
The cargo being offloaded this weekend consists of multiple parts that will be used to prepare State Pier as a pre-assembly site for a wind operation that won’t be in full swing until July or August. According to Justin May, spokesperson for the Ørsted/Eversource partnership, the largest components in these initial shipments are the tower pads, used to assemble the wind turbine towers.
“This is the first of a series of steps to prepare the site for turbine components,” May said in an email.
In its pre-assembly mode, State Pier will host office facilities, a warehouse, storage areas and an assembly hall for low-voltage components. The project’s first large turbine components will arrive in June, followed by the housing that contains the generator, gearbox, drive train, and brake as well as the massive turbine blades.
“Components are not brought in simultaneously because a certain amount of preparatory work is required before the site is fully operational,” May said.
State Pier has undergone a massive $255 million redevelopment to create 40 acres of space for turbine assembly and related work. The work was necessary not only for offshore wind projects but as part of the state’s plan to encourage shipments of heavy-lift cargo from here to all over the world, Hammond said.
“It’s not going to be just offshore wind,” he said. “That’s what a lot of people don’t know.”
Hammond said the Desgagnes offloading would be completed by Saturday, while the Billie operation would start and end Sunday.
Eskil Rosat, wind turbine generator installation manager for Ørsted, said a total of three ships would be arriving initially as the company mobilizes the site.
“It’s all coming together finally,” he said.
Rosat said he expected the first turbine at State Pier will take about eight days to be assembled, but eventually he is aiming to churn out one turbine a day. The first project calls for the assembly of 12 turbines, to be installed off the coast of Long Island. With the three projects now contemplated, 161 turbines will eventually be assembled.
Rosat added that weather can affect the ability to assemble turbines, especially winds over 30 mph. He said Ørsted has contingency plans in case of a hurricane.
May, the Ørsted/Eversource spokesman, said that licensed marine pilots and tugboat operators from Thames Towboat Co. were given special training last month at the U.S. Maritime Resource Center in Newport, R.I., to help them prepare for the large boats that will be used in the offshore wind operation. They also received new hydrographic surveys of the Thames River created after recent dredging so pilots could anticipate the best ways to maneuver offshore wind cargo vessels.
At some point next year, Dominion's 472-foot-long ship Charybdis, the first U.S.-built wind turbine installation vessel, will be regularly seen at State Pier as the Ørsted/Eversource partnership gears up for its Revolution Wind and Sunrise Wind projects.
“All three Ørsted/Eversource projects – South Fork Wind, Revolution Wind and Sunrise Wind – that will be staged and assembled out of State Pier will power more than 1 million homes across Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York,” May said in an email.
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