Ports up and down the US East Coast are chasing the wind as offshore (and onshore) wind generating projects gain momentum.

Northeast ports are positioning themselves to capitalize on the offshore wind bonanza that is beckoning from Maine to Maryland. While it isn’t quite the California gold rush of the 49ers, nonetheless it is a rush to get in early on a multi-billion dollar market. On March 29th, the Secretaries of the Interior, Energy, Commerce, and Transportation all met to announce a commitment to “establish a target to deploy 30 gigawatts (30,000 megawatts) of offshore wind by 2030, creating nearly 80,000 jobs,” with much of that tally coming on the East Coast.

At the moment, offshore wind power operations are in their infancy with only one up and running operation and another pilot program project. The Danish owned Ørsted operates the Block Island Wind Farm, America’s first offshore wind farm, and also constructed a two-turbine Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project. Notably, the first turbines to be installed in federal waters.

But this is only a fraction of what is in the pipeline. Ørsted, whose North American operations is jointly headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island, has secured over 2,900 megawatts of additional capacity through five projects in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

Ørsted‘s five project undertaking is just the beginning and building the port and manufacturing infrastructure to support the long term buildout of offshore wind power is paramount. Ports like Davisville Rhode Island and South Jersey Port Corporation (SJPC) are already vested to the process of becoming hubs for offshore wind power. But many other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic ports are also preparing for the economic blast from wind power.

Bonding Moment - $60 Million Quest for QDC

Perhaps the port leading the queue for wind power development is the Port of Davisville in Rhode Island. The Port of Davisville has already made a name for itself as one of the nation’s top auto ports and was also a key port for the staging for the construction of the first U.S. wind farm located off Block Island. But Davisville needs an infrastructure upgrade if it is to continue to be a leading port for offshore wind power development.

On March 2nd Rhode Island voters went to the polls to vote on seven ballot questions, including Question 7 which if approved would see the state issue $60 million in bonds to the Quonset Development Corporation (QDC) for economic development activity, including $40 million for industrial site development.

For a number of months business leaders have been stumping for the question to be approved as QDC, which encompasses the Port of Davisville, has been one of Rhode Island’s most successful economic enterprises.

All 7 bond measures were passed by Rhode Island voters and while #7 was expected to be lucky with the formal tick of the box, a number of development projects can now kick into high gear.

Essentially, $20 million of the $60 million will go to the Port of Davisville’s construction of a new pier and renovation of the existing Pier One, (a pier built during World War II) and the accompanying dredging. Both projects are essential to the growth of the Port which annually handles over 200,000 vehicles and as such has been described as the “biggest small port” in the country. Autos aside, the real purpose of investment in the Port’s piers is to position Quonset as a potential hub for offshore wind power activities.

The Port is already onboard with the Revolution Wind project which is designed to provide 400 megawatts of energy from the offshore wind farm to a new substation in Quonset before being routed to the Davisville Substation and pushed onward through the Rhode Island power grid. Offshore wind is a critical piece in the State’s avowed goal of running on 100% renewable energy by 2030 – less than two decades away.

City of New London CT and Ørsted ink HCA

The Port of Davisville isn’t the only New England port positioning itself for the offshore wind power boom. The nearby Port of New London Connecticut has also thrown its hat into the ring. On February 26th Connecticut’s Governor Ned Lamont announced that the City of New London and the Ørsted/Eversource Joint Venture have signed a Host Community Agreement (HCA) to facilitate the redevelopment of State Pier into a modern, heavy-lift facility capable of supporting offshore wind turbine staging and assembly and a broader range of cargo businesses. The agreement represents a critical milestone in the state’s quest to become a national leader in offshore wind development while providing the City of New London with significant economic opportunity as it becomes a regional epicenter of offshore wind development.

The HCA guarantees at least $5.25 million in payments to the City of New London over seven years. The agreement also provides for the city’s revenue to increase as Connecticut’s use of renewable offshore wind expands over the next decade.

“Today’s agreement makes Connecticut’s role as a leader in the offshore wind industry official, with New London now poised to become the premier commercial East Coast hub for this sector and our state set to become a leader in the transition to renewable energy and the fight against climate change,” Governor Lamont said. “This project represents exactly what I have wanted to see at the local level since I came into office – local investment, job growth, development, and a focus on providing for a better environment and future for our state. I am proud to see this agreement come to fruition, and I am especially proud of our private sector partners working with us in the public sector to make this project a reality.”

The HCA provides $750,000 annually to the City of New London for seven years during the construction of the Revolution Wind, South Fork Wind, and Sunrise Wind projects. If Eversource and Ørsted win any Connecticut offshore wind procurement during those seven years and JV work continues at the port, the annual payment will extend through year ten of the host community agreement. The HCA builds on an earlier Ørsted and Eversource commitment for the first two years of operations at State Pier.

Under the terms of the agreement, the HCA will provide New London with $750,000 in base revenue over a seven-year period with the expectation that the payments will continue for ten years and beyond. When the agreement becomes fully implemented, with other payments by the Connecticut Port Authority and port operator Gateway Terminal, the city is to realize more than $1 million per year for the initial seven-year period. If the joint venture receives additional awards from the state to produce more energy, the city will continue to receive $1 million annually in years eight, nine, and ten. The city can also receive up to an additional $750,000 annually on top of that if the joint venture attains certain bid levels.

Should the Eversource and Ørsted joint venture win additional offshore wind procurement awards from Connecticut, the agreement increases payments up to $1.5 million per year retroactively to year three regardless of the year the award is received. Additionally, according to the deal the payments are retroactive, meaning the City of New London would receive the maximum investment regardless of when the increased activity thresholds are met.

Port of Albany Notches Deal for Wind Power Assembly Plant

It seems over the last five years there is always something being built at the Port of Albany, located around 514 miles up the Hudson River from New York City. And this year is no different as the Port prepares for construction of a $300 million plus wind power turbine tower manufacturing and assembly plant on the 81.6 acre Bethlehem expansion area adjacent to the Port’s main Hudson River facilities. Recently, the Port of Albany signed a nearly $7 million deal with two engineering firms, California-based Moffat and Nichols and McFarland-Johnson Inc. of Binghamton, New York to provide the design and engineering for the wind power plant project.

The Port of Albany hit high gear on wind power when on January 13th the port was awarded a bid to be the site for New York State’s first wind power manufacturing and assembly site. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) selected a joint bid from energy company Equinor, and wind industry manufacturers Marmen and Welcon to build two offshore wind farms with a combined output of nearly 2.5 gigawatts of electricity. The Port of Albany’s selection for the project was part of the Equinor bid [Equinor holds two lease areas, the Empire Wind lease area located nearly 20 miles south of Long Island]. The port commission also selected McFarland-Johnson Inc. of Binghamton to assist with engineering, bid review and construction administration for the proposed wind tower manufacturing and assembly plant. The contract calls for McFarland-Johnson to be paid up to $1.59 million to provide infrastructure design and engineering services and up to another $3.1 million for assisting with engineering, bid review and construction administration for proposed wind tower manufacturing and assembly plant.

When completed the Bethlehem facility will build some 350 wind towers for deployment.

When completed the Bethlehem facility will include up to five buildings, totaling an estimated 600,000 square feet of assembly, storage and office space.

Perhaps lost in the offshore build out is the fact that the Port of Albany is also a destination for onshore wind power equipment.

NJ Plans to be Mid-Atlantic Hub for Offshore Wind Power

Perhaps nowhere else was the Biden administration announcement of support for offshore wind power more welcomed than the state house in Trenton, New Jersey. Contained within the announcement of the commitment to wind power [see above],the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management [BOEM]said that the New York Bight, an area of shallow waters located between New Jersey and Long Island, would become a priority Wind Energy Area. Further, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland explained the area encompasses some 800,000 acres. BOEM now will identify potential sites for wind farms, including an environmental review with public comment, and decide whether to sell leases for development as early as the end of this year.

This is all very good news for New Jersey.

New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy has become a major advocate for offshore wind power, first announcing plans in June 2020 of a plan to build a wind port on an artificial island in the Delaware River and then upping the ante with the December announcement of a $250 million investment in a wind-related manufacturing facility in the Port of Paulsboro to be operated by EEW Group, a company based in Erndtebrück, Germany. The company’s EEW Special Pipe Constructions subsidiary, based in the Rostock Port on the Baltic Sea, manufactures foundation structures for the offshore wind and oil and gas industries.

The Paulsboro Marine Terminal is a 190-acre facility inaugurated in 2017, primarily to handle breakbulk cargo. According to Brendan Dugan, assistant executive director and director of business development at the South Jersey Port Corporation (SJPC), “Initially, 70 acres will be leased to EEW for monopile manufacturing.” In July 2019, EEW signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Ørsted towards establishing the monopile fabrication facility in Paulsboro. The Paulsboro facility, in addition to building monopiles for Ocean Wind, will likely also serve other offshore wind sites around the United States, as specified in the MOU. The monopile facility will represent the largest industrial offshore wind investment in the United States to date, according to the New Jersey governor’s office. Construction on the facility will break ground in January 2021, with production beginning in 2023.

The wind energy marshalling port proposed by New Jersey’s governor, which will be designed to assemble wind components for transport to offshore sites, will cost between $300 million and $400 million to fully develop, according to government estimates. Construction is planned in two phases, with 55 acres to be developed beginning in mid-2021, while another 150 acres will accommodate marshalling and manufacturing activities beginning in 2026.