The ports up and down the Eastern Seaboard are gearing up for a new age of offshore wind power. It’s an immense project that will over the next decade reshape the power for the entire corridor…and beyond.

A flurry of activity is taking place up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Old ports and new are being forged and formulated, prepped and repurposed. All are trying to take advantage of the soon-to-be explosive industry in offshore wind.

Wind ports will support various functions associated with this renewable energy source. They include construction, assembly, staging, production, supply, logistics, repair and maintenance. Port-related activities include not just making and marshaling the wind components themselves, but those associated with power transmission, getting the electricity from the wind farms to land and then connecting that with the grid. Because the turbines are so large and the assembly process so unique, offshore wind demands purpose-built ports, or at least specialized sections of existing ports. This requires far more than minor alterations. Wharfs must be strengthened. Giant cranes installed. Channels deepened. Yards cleared and constructed.

Most state governments demand some kind of local presence as a precondition for offshore wind development leases. This makes both political and economic sense as additional jobs and substantial development dollars stand as two of the biggest attractions of this new industry.

“To create good jobs, and create jobs for a greener industry, that is a big part of the policymaker’s mantra,” said Alexander Fløtre, vice president offshore wind at the research company Rystad Energy. “It’s part of why offshore wind is so popular, because it is a big industry.”

Fragmentation, however, can retard development. That’s especially so as suppliers still lack clarity on how much of a national marketplace they can count on. Fragmentation is “slowing the supply chain’s movement to the United States,” said Matt Smith, director of offshore wind business development at the Hampton Roads Alliance. “If we’re not functioning as one offshore wind market, but as a series of states that are competing. And that’s just the reality of it.”

The Business of Offshore Wind Power

So far, at least, there’s enough business to keep multiple ports busy, say even the most dispassionate and least boosterish independent analysts.

“We’re going to need all those ports and then probably we’re going to need a few more,” said Bruce Carlisle, managing director of offshore wind for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, a state economic development agency. “This entire enterprise is a maritime enterprise.”

However, some head-to-head competition has already emerged. In bids submitted late September for development of a third Massachusetts wind farm, both Vineyard Wind, the joint venture between Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) and Avangrid Renewables, and Mayflower Wind, the joint venture between Shell and Ocean Wind, offered ports-related sweeteners. If Vineyard gets the nod, the port of Salem should gain business. If Mayflower prevails, Fall River will become an operations and maintenance port.

Some kind of specialization, either by geography or function, will…

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