Connecticut among host of East Coast states vying for piece of offshore wind investment
In parts of downtown New London, you can hear the echo of the machinery being used to drive piles around State Pier as work progresses on a $235 million investment to ready the facility's two piers for the arrival of offshore wind components and the vessels that carry them.
The Quonset Business Park in North Kingstown, R.I., is similarly in the midst of a planned $234 million upgrade project, a portion of which involves the rehabilitation and extension of a pier that can accommodate the needs of the offshore wind industry.
With a $40 million investment from Danish wind company Ørsted and its partner Eversource, the Port of Providence is creating a new facility to be used for the fabrication and assembly of foundation components for offshore wind projects.
Examples of large investments in ports can be found up the Northeast coastline in anticipation of work for the burgeoning offshore wind industry. States are turning more and more to wind power and repurposing or building new ports to be used for staging and assembly of turbine parts or repair and maintenance facilities.
“All of the ports that can be utilized will be utilized,” said Steven King, managing director for the Quonset Development Corporation, or QDC, a quasi-state agency that serves as Rhode Island's de facto port authority.
The QDC oversees the 3,200-acre Quonset Business Park, which already has more than 210 companies, nearly 13,000 workers and is one of the top automobile importers in North America.
The QDC is also the terminal operator for the Port of Davisville — the state's only public port — in the business park. Plans are in the works for a major investment to upgrade its entire facility, which includes two piers. King said there are plans to build a third pier to add more berthing capabilities and space to accommodate offshore wind businesses.
The Port of Davisville is strategically located near offshore wind lease areas where there are 2,510 megawatts worth of projects in the pipeline. It was also the key port for development of Block Island Wind, the five-turbine, 30-megawatt farm developed by Deepwater Wind that became the United States' first operational offshore wind farm when it came online in 2016.
Quonset, already bustling with 200 ships a year, has signed an agreement with Ørsted and Eversource to homeport five crew transport vessels.
King said there will be competition among the states along the Northeast coast.
“We’re really focused on Port of Davisville being a logistics hub,” King said. “We’re trying to position ourselves to be operations and maintenance in the long term. That’s where we see the jobs 25 years into the future.”
Opportunities for ports
The offshore industry was jump started by the Biden administration with a plan to have offshore wind farms producing 30 gigawatts of energy — enough to power 10 million homes — by 2030.
The power generated by wind turbines is measured in megawatts and the size of the turbines determines how much power is produced. The planned 62-turbine Vineyard Wind I project off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, for example, is using new General Electric Haliade-X turbines with a diameter of 722 feet that will generate 800 megawatts of electricity annually, enough to power 400,000 homes. Block Island Wind Farm’s five turbines generate 30 megawatts, enough to power 17,000 homes.
States have established nearly 45,000 megawatts of offshore wind procurement to date, according to the American Clean Power Association. Developers plan to bring about 10,300 megawatts of power online by 2026 with a dozen different offshore wind projects, most in federal waters off the East Coast.
John Henshaw, executive director of the Connecticut Port Authority, agreed that the offshore wind industry is changing the face of ports up and down the coast. The state commitments for procurement of offshore wind as a green energy source, paired with significant state and federal funding to support infrastructure projects, “is making ports think about what role they might play in this evolving industry,” he said.
The Connecticut Port Authority is overseeing the upgrade project at State Pier in New London that is funded jointly by the state and partners Ørsted and Eversource. It is to be used as a staging and assembly facility and one of the few ports that will be able to accommodate the massive 472-foot, $500 million wind turbine installation vessel known as Charybdis, which is under construction in Texas.
The State Pier project is expected to be completed in 2023 and in time to provide service to Ørsted and Eversource’s Southfork Wind project, a 130-megawatt, 12-turbine wind farm off Long Island. That project broke ground in East Hampton, N.Y., in February and will feed power into the Long Island Power Authority grid.
New York has a goal of 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2035 and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul recently announced a proposal to invest $500 million in offshore wind.
Southfork will be dwarfed by other projects in the pipeline.
The 800-megawatt, 62-turbine Vineyard Wind 1, a joint venture of Avangrid Renewables and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, has broken ground on what is expected to be the nation’s first commercial scale offshore wind farm. The farm is expected to deliver power to Massachusetts next year. Avangrid Renewables is also developing Park City Wind, a 804-megawatt project named after the city of Bridgeport. Avangrid is leasing space in Bridgeport’s Barnum Landing for a construction and staging location. That project is projected to produce about 14% of Connecticut’s electricity.
Ørsted and Eversource also have in the works the 704-megawatt Revolution Wind that is expected to provide 304 megawatts of power to Connecticut and 400 megawatts to Rhode Island by 2025. Sunrise Wind, a 924-megawatt project also developed by Ørsted and Eversource, will provide power to New York.
State Pier in New London will provide service to all three of Ørsted and Eversource’s projects. Delivery ships will arrive with the various parts of the wind turbines — the towers and blades — where they will be assembled and transported to the offshore wind farms and placed on foundations.
Advantages in New London
Connecticut is not alone in development of its ports with the aid of offshore wind investments.
The Marine Commerce Terminal in New Bedford, Mass., lays claim to being the first port facility in the country designed to support construction, assembly and deployment of offshore wind projects.
Ørsted and Eversource signed a $86 million supply chain contract to construct foundation components for wind turbines at the Port of Coeymans, south of Albany.
At Port Jefferson in Suffolk County, N.Y., Ørsted and Eversource are creating a regional operations and maintenance hub and will host the ECO Edison, the first American-flagged service operation vessel. The port will include warehouse space and a 60,000-square-foot facility to house staff from South Fork and Sunrise Wind projects
“These are big developments happening. If you include the New England, the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, those states are targeting about 26 gigawatts of energy. It’s a lot of energy that will built over the next decade or so,” said Michael Ausere, vice president of business development for Eversource.
Ausere joined David Ortiz, Ørsted’s head of market affairs for New England, for a recent interview with The Day to discuss ongoing projects by the joint venture partners.
Ausere and Ortiz both reiterated that the lack of any obstacles, such as bridges, gives New London a clear advantage over other deepwater ports.
“State Pier has strategic significance not only to Ørsted and Eversource but to this industry regionally. It doesn’t mean there aren’t other port facilities we will be utilizing in other functions that complement what we’re doing at State Pier,” Ortiz said.
Henshaw, of the Connecticut Port Authority, said he sees the developments as a good thing so long as ports have additional capacity to take on those roles or are positioned to pivot to accommodate a new business.
“Ports are also seeking to build additional capacity. Many states are making significant investments in new or existing port facilities — with some even committing to purpose-built offshore wind port projects,” Henshaw said.
“The one caveat is they should keep their eyes on the long game," he said. "Investments should be made not only for the wind industry but for what comes after."
If momentum for offshore wind slows, Henshaw said port improvements such as the project at State Pier will have greatly increased capabilities relative to general and heavy-lift cargo, resulting in expanded future business opportunities.
“New London will be well positioned for decades to come,” he said.
Paul Whitescarver, executive director of the Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region, or seCTer, said there are unused commercial waterfront properties along the Thames River that could be utilized for different elements of the offshore wind industry.
SeCTer’s efforts to develop an Offshore Wind Industry Cluster was one of the finalists for the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge. SeCTer received $500,000 to fine-tune its proposal to be eligible for the second phase of federal awards of between $20 million and $100 million. Whitescarver said at some point the European offshore wind companies will want to bring their developers and suppliers to the U.S. and the region should be in a position to “roll out the red carpet.”
“Our goal is to bring economic development to the entire region and to diversify industry,” he said.