In parts of downtown New London, you can hear the echoes of machines driving piles around the State Pier as work progresses on a $235 million investment to upgrade the facility’s two piers for the arrival of Prepare offshore wind components and the vessels that transport them.
Quonset Business Park in North Kingstown, RI, is similarly in the midst of a proposed $234 million upgrade project, part of which includes the rehabilitation and expansion of a pier capable of serving 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 fabricate and assemble foundation components for offshore wind projects.
Examples of large investments in ports can be found on the north east coast in anticipation of work for the burgeoning offshore wind industry. States are increasingly turning to wind power, converting or building new ports for the delivery and assembly of turbine parts or for repair and maintenance facilities.
“Any ports that can be used are used,” said Steven King, executive director of Quonset Development Corporation, or QDC, a quasi-government 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 and nearly 13,000 employees and is one of North America’s leading automobile importers.
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 the entire facility, which includes two piers. King said there are plans to build a third pier to provide more mooring opportunities and space for offshore wind companies.
The Port of Davisville is strategically located near offshore wind leases where 2,510 megawatts of projects are in the pipeline. It was also the key port for the development of Block Island Wind, the 30-megawatt, five-turbine farm developed by Deepwater Wind, which became the United States’ first operational offshore wind farm upon commissioning in 2016.
Quonset, which already operates at 200 vessels per year, has signed an agreement with Ørsted and Eversource for the home port of five crew transport vessels.
King said there will be competition between states along the northeast coast.
“We’re really focused on the Port of Davisville being a logistics hub,” King said. “We are trying to position ourselves as operations and maintenance for the long term. In this we see the jobs 25 years into the future.”
opportunities for ports
The offshore industry was launched by the Biden administration with a plan to have 30 gigawatts of offshore wind farms by 2030 – enough to power 10 million homes.
The power generated by wind turbines is measured in megawatts and the size of the turbines determines how much electricity is produced. For example, the proposed 62-turbine Vineyard Wind I project off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard will use new General Electric 220-meter-diameter Haliade-X turbines that will generate 800 megawatts of electricity annually, enough to power 400,000 homes supply. The Block Island wind farm’s five turbines generate 30 megawatts, enough to power 17,000 homes.
States have procured nearly 45,000 megawatts of offshore wind power to date, according to the American Clean Power Association. Developers plan to bring about 10,300 megawatts of power to the grid 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 along the coast. Government pledges to procure offshore wind power as a green energy source, coupled with significant state and federal funding to support infrastructure projects, “makes ports think about what role they could play in this evolving industry,” he said.
The Connecticut Port Authority is overseeing the modernization project at the State Pier in New London, which is funded jointly by the state and partners Ørsted and Eversource. It is intended to be used as a staging and assembly facility and as one of the few ports that can accommodate the massive 472-foot, $500-million wind turbine installation vessel called Charybdis, which is under construction in Texas.
The State Pier project is expected to be completed in 2023, in time for Ørsted and Eversource’s Southfork Wind project, a 130-megawatt, 12-turbine wind farm off Long Island. This project broke ground in February in East Hampton, NY 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 power.
Southfork is dwarfed by other projects in the pipeline.
800-megawatt, 62-turbine Vineyard Wind 1, a joint venture between Avangrid Renewables and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, has broken ground on what is expected to be the country’s first commercial offshore wind farm. The farm is scheduled to supply electricity to Massachusetts next year. Avangrid Renewables is also developing Park City Wind, an 804-megawatt project named after the city of Bridgeport. Avangrid leases space at Bridgeport’s Barnum Landing for a build and staging site. This project is expected to produce about 14% of Connecticut’s electricity.
Ørsted and Eversource also have the 704-megawatt Revolution wind in the works, which is expected to provide 304 megawatts of power for Connecticut and 400 megawatts for Rhode Island by 2025. Sunrise Wind, a 924-megawatt project also developed by Ørsted and Eversource, will power New York.
State Pier in New London will serve all three Ørsted and Eversource 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.
Benefits in New London
Connecticut is not alone in developing its ports with the help of offshore wind investments.
The Marine Commerce Terminal in New Bedford, Massachusetts claims to be the nation’s first port facility designed to support the construction, assembly and deployment of offshore wind projects.
Ørsted and Eversource signed an $86 million supply chain deal to build foundation components for wind turbines at the Port of Coeymans, south of Albany.
At Port Jefferson in Suffolk County, NY, Ørsted and Eversource are creating a regional operations and maintenance center and will house the ECO Edison, the first American-flagged service vessel. The port will include warehousing and a 60,000-square-foot facility to house personnel at the South Fork and Sunrise Wind projects
“These are big developments that are happening. If you include New England, the Northeast, and the Mid-Atlantic states, those states are targeting about 26 gigawatts of energy. It’s a lot of energy that’s going to be built over the next decade or so,” said Michael Ausere, Eversource’s vice president of business development.
Ausere recently interviewed David Ortiz, Ørsted’s head of market affairs for New England, with The Day to discuss ongoing projects of the joint venture partners.
Ausere and Ortiz both affirmed that the absence of any obstacles such as bridges gives New London a clear advantage over other deep-water ports.
“State Pier is of strategic importance not only for Ørsted and Eversource, but also for this industry in the region. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other port facilities that we will use for other functions that complement our work at the State Pier,” Ortiz said.
Henshaw, of the Connecticut Port Authority, said he views the developments as a good thing so long as ports have additional capacity to fill those roles or are able to turn around to start new business.
“The ports are also trying to build up additional capacities. Many states are making significant investments in new or existing port facilities – some even committing to purpose-built offshore windport projects,” Henshaw said.
“The only caveat is that they should keep the long-term game in mind,” he said. “Investments should not only be made for the wind industry, but also for what comes after.”
If momentum for offshore wind slows, Henshaw said port improvements like the State Pier project will significantly increase capacity relative to breakbulk and heavylift, leading to expanded future business opportunities.
“New London will be well positioned for the decades to come,” he said.
Paul Whitescarver, executive director of the Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region, or seCTer, said there is unused waterfront commercial land along the Thames that could be used for various elements of the offshore wind industry.
SeCTer’s effort to develop an offshore wind industry cluster was one of the finalists for the US 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 the federal award, ranging from $20 million to $100 million. Whitescarver said that at some point, European offshore wind companies want to bring their developers and suppliers to the US and the region should be able to “roll out the red carpet”.
“Our goal is to bring economic development to the whole region and diversify the industry,” he said.