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    Thursday, May 30, 2024

    Finally, some fair winds for offshore power

    This past week the region learned of Ørsted’s decision to move forward with the Revolution Wind project that will send enough electricity to Connecticut and Rhode Island to power about 400,000 homes.

    At the same time the transporting of massive wind turbine components for another offshore project began. Pre-staged at the State Pier in New London, which was reconfigured for that purpose, the wind turbine sections are headed to waters about 35 miles east of Montauk Point. There they will be assembled for the South Fork Wind project, providing enough energy for 70,000 Long Island homes.

    These milestones should be celebrated. The nation’s first large-scale offshore wind farms will pump needed electric energy into the region’s power grid, energy that will be produced without fossil fuel emissions. Drastically reducing dependence on fossil fuels is critical to slowing climate change and its adverse effects.

    The start of South Fork Wind turbine construction and news that a final investment decision had been reached to move forward with the 704-megawatt Revolution Wind project assure that State Pier will remain busy well into the future. A final investment decision is a crucial stage for a capital-intensive energy project, indicating it is a go.

    The path to this point was difficult and often frustrating. Large, complex public works projects are notorious budget busters. But even by those standards, the cost of converting the two state-owned piers into a single, heavy capacity laydown area for the wind turbine components was off the charts. The final $309 million budget, with wind developer partners Eversource and Ørsted contributing about $100 million, was more than triple the initial estimate. Eversource is selling its share in the partnership.

    Both the Connecticut Port Authority and the administration of Gov. Ned Lamont made the mistake of continually overpromising and underperforming when it came to the projected project cost. Combined with ethical lapses at the port authority, it eroded public confidence.

    Yet rooting for the project’s failure, after making such a large investment, is foolhardy. Work at State Pier means jobs — the skilled workforce at the pier is expected to fluctuate between 70 and 120 for the two planned projects — and economic activity. Revolution Wind will expand the electric supply to Connecticut, which is needed. As importantly, the pier work contributes to the growth in renewable energy.

    Ørsted is making some hard, and controversial, choices. Around the same time it announced Revolution Wind, working out of New London, was a go, it terminated plans for another largescale project. Orsted said it was cutting its losses and terminating plans for the Ocean Wind 1 and Ocean Wind 2 wind farms, which would have sent electricity to New Jersey.

    “Macroeconomic factors have changed dramatically over a short period of time, with high inflation, rising interest rates, and supply chain bottlenecks impacting our long-term capital investments. As a result, we have no choice but to cease development of Ocean Wind 1 and Ocean Wind 2,” read the statement issued by David Hardy, CEO for American Ørsted operations.

    As stated in a prior editorial, the administration of President Biden needs to take all the reasonable steps it can to help get an offshore wind industry operating off the Atlantic seaboard. The administration has set a goal to develop 40 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030, enough for 36 million homes. While reaching that goal in seven years is highly unlikely given where things now stand, it should remain a target if Washington is serious about combatting climate change.

    This was never going to be easy. Global realities, including inflation, higher interest rates and the supply chain issues cited by Ørsted, are making it more difficult. But the nation must find a way forward. When it does, the State Pier facility in New London is well positioned to be a major contributor to that effort.

    The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. The board operates independently from The Day newsroom.

    The Day editorial board meets with political, business and community leaders to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Timothy Dwyer, Executive Editor Izaskun E. Larraneta, Owen Poole, copy editor, and Lisa McGinley, retired deputy managing editor. The board operates independently from The Day newsroom.

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