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    Monday, April 15, 2024

    Port of New London critical component of Offshore Wind Industry Cluster

    Crews drive pilings just off the end of the Central Vermont Pier as workers with Kiewit and various sub-contractors work on the State Pier complex in New London Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    It has been a momentous start to 2022 for the burgeoning offshore wind industry in the United States, the state of Connecticut and its southeastern region. Southeastern CT has never been more poised to take advantage of existing assets in skilled labor, a robust manufacturing supply chain and the Thames River, to ensure that offshore wind becomes a mainstay in our region.

    The Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region, or seCTer, is putting forward economic development projects to ensure the offshore wind industry will continually grow within the region. SeCTer’s coalition of six projects was selected to compete in phase two of the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge in December 2021 that could see up to $100M pour into the region to anchor the industry in the Northeast.

    Most recently, Ørsted and Eversource broke ground on South Fork Wind, New York’s first offshore wind farm, which will generate approximately 130MW of clean energy — enough to power 70,000 homes. At the same time, the State Pier infrastructure improvement project also continues to progress and will reshape the Port of New London in the coming years. The revitalized facility will be home first to South Fork Wind’s 12 Siemens-Gamesa 11 megawatt turbines starting in 2023, as they are staged, assembled, and brought out to sea from the port while supporting dozens of offshore wind jobs.

    Additionally, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management held an auction Feb. 23 for six offshore wind farm lease sites along the coasts of New York and New Jersey in waters of the so-called New York Bight with a potential for 5.6GW of energy. Added to future sights in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, 13GW of power generation may see their birth from our State Pier. The Port of New London’s proximity to all wind farms off the southern New England coast makes it the primary staging and shipping point for projects in those waters, and our coalition’s proposed projects will reap the benefits.

    Every day, I look at the activity underway to transform State Pier, a long-underutilized state asset, into a modern, heavy-lift capable facility, and I smile thinking about the possibilities for our region’s future. I see not just the dozens of construction jobs, including union laborers that have already been created on-site at State Pier in recent months, but all of the activity our coalition is proposing to create a robust offshore wind ecosystem in the region.

    Our coalition’s collective efforts to develop an Offshore Wind Industry Cluster in southeastern Connecticut and beyond hinges on the industry’s continued growth and State Pier. From the Thames River and the State Pier as a hub, industrial sites in distressed communities along the shoreline, rail sites leading north, Business Park North in Norwich will all see new life by supply chain manufacturers. Add UConn Blue Tech business Incubator and Accelerator and Research and Development programs at UConn Avery Point with the development of an Offshore Wind Pipeline Initiative that mirrors the existing work being done by the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment board, the coalition’s goal is to catalyze and diversify the region’s economy.

    At the center of what we hope to achieve for Connecticut lies the Port of New London, and we must not lose sight of just how transformational the State Pier project is for our state’s leadership in the green economy and its ability to assist the national effort to reduce our carbon footprint.

    (Paul Whitescarver, a retired U.S. Navy captain, is Executive Director of the Southeastern CT Enterprise Region.)

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