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    Tuesday, April 23, 2024

    Denmark provides glimpse of offshore wind opportunities

    Eastern Connecticut is about to play a major role in the offshore wind energy industry as the first components for offshore wind farms begin arriving this month at State Pier in the Port of New London.

    This is an exciting step toward meeting regional climate change goals through the production of clean energy and providing new career opportunities.

    And the opportunities are vast, as I witnessed during a recent tour of the offshore wind industry in Denmark, a world leader in sustainable energy. The tour was organized by the Danish Trade Council, Green Power Denmark, and State of Green, a Danish public-private partnership supporting sustainable energy. The tour was funded by the European Union.

    I was invited based on the Eastern Connecticut Chamber’s role in producing an offshore wind study entitled “Embracing the Potential of Offshore Wind in Connecticut: A Study of Opportunities and Challenges.”

    Everything I saw in Denmark needs to be created in the US. And while the U.S. lags most of the world in offshore wind energy, work is underway here to build the ships, develop the technology, train the workers, and upgrade port facilities to realize the economic and environmental benefits of offshore wind energy.

    My interest in the energy industry began decades ago when, as a college senior, I received a Watson Fellowship to study worker participation in decision-making among Norwegian and Swedish companies. I was invited to spend a week on one of the company’s rigs, and it provided a stark look into the efforts necessary to satisfy our insatiable demand for energy. The work was complex, dirty, and dangerous.

    Drilling for oil and gas in the North Sea decades ago cannot be compared to the highly technical, highly regulated offshore wind industry of the 21st century. This was evident as I toured these advanced facilities. Our first stop was Bladt Industries, a leading manufacturer of offshore wind foundations, substations, and high-quality steel structures. We learned about their products and services and toured their manufacturing plants. Our next stop was Liftra, which specializes in transport and lift operations for wind farms. Of critical importance to the industry is Liftra’s development of a self-hoisting crane and other critical components that bring significant efficiency to the installation and maintenance of offshore wind turbines.

    We then traveled to the Technical University of Denmark where researchers at the Department of Wind and Energy Systems are taking the technology to the next level. The facility is considered the world's largest public research institute for wind and energy, an indication to me that Denmark is determined to remain the world leader in the industry. We also visited a Siemens Gamesa factory where work is focused on developing technology to recycle wind turbine blades and other components. Environmental responsibility is a core attribute of the offshore wind industry and developers incorporate sustainable practices where possible. Siemens Gamesa is a leading producer of wind energy components and is providing the turbines for South Fork Wind, which will be arriving in New London this summer. Our next stop was Blue Water Shipping, a global company headquartered in Esbjerg that provides storage and transport of turbine components, foundations, cables, and other equipment. Of special significance for me was our tour of Port Esbjerg. Built by the State in 1868, it was once Denmark's principal fishing harbor but today is Europe's leading port for shipping offshore wind turbines and related components.

    Seeing this offshore wind hub and its technology at work was a great reminder of the wise investment our state leaders made to transform State Pier into an advanced marine terminal from the outmoded facility it had become. Managed wisely, and with aggressive promotion, our new, heavy-lift-capable terminal will be a hub of offshore wind energy development in the Northeast and a vital East Coast general cargo facility for generations to come.

    The final two days of the trip were spent networking at the Wind Europe 2023 conference, the largest such conference in Europe. With 14,000 participants, including policy and business leaders from around the globe, I had the opportunity to meet with companies interested in expanding in the US. I visited as many booths as possible and distributed information about the region and our businesses.

    Going forward, we need to continue educating ourselves about this new industry. Our hosts were eager to share their knowledge and they encourage American counterparts to help meet global demand. Learning from industry experts will help us efficiently develop a US supply chain, manufacturing base, and labor force. Equally important, along with our nuclear plants, Connecticut can be the leading green energy state in the nation, an effort to make us all proud.

    Tony Sheridan is President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.

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