Dr. Dagher advocates offshore wind “Marshal Plan” for U.S. ports

Offshore wind farms can be a major source of U.S. renewable wind energy but a major public/private investment in U.S. ports similar to the post WWII Marshall Plan is needed, according to Dr. Habib Dagher, the founding Executive Director of the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center.

Read part two: Dagher Says Offshore Wind Supply Chain Problems Are Manageable

“I have advocated for a Marshall Plan for U.S. ports”
Dr. Habib Dagher, Executive Director of the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center.

Dagher has been a pioneering force for floating offshore wind development in the United States. Under his direction, the University of Maine launched the first floating wind turbine: a prototype that was tested in the Gulf of Maine in 2013.

Wanted: A Marshall Plan for U.S. Ports

In an interview with AJOT, Dagher said that the Port of Long Beach’s proposed floating wind turbine port, ‘Pier Wind’, could be a role model and a game-changer for the United States with the capacity to mass produce and deploy a fleet of offshore wind turbines for the U.S. Pacific Coast.

The Port of Long Beach projects that it will begin construction on its 400 acre ‘Pier Wind’ offshore wind port in 2027 that is projected to cost $4.7 billion, according to Suzanne Plezia, Senior Director/Chief Harbor Engineer for the Port of Long Beach.

‘Pier Wind’ reflects the vision of Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero who has advocated for renewable and zero emission port operations at Long Beach and sees the ‘Pier Wind” offshore wind facility as a new economic development generator for ports.

This vision complements Dagher’s vision: “I have advocated for a Marshall Plan for U.S. ports” adding ‘I have had discussions with officials associated with the Port of Long Beach’s Pier Wind project. That project could be a game changer for floating offshore wind because of the scale of the proposed offshore wind port that Long Beach proposes. When you look at floating offshore wind … you have to construct the hulls. The hulls are very big structures that could be 300 feet in diameter, so … you need large areas where these can be constructed out of steel or concrete. This means huge … fabrication and assembly facilities for the hulls. And you've got the rest of the components such as the towers and the turbines …’”

Dr. Habib Dagher

The result, he said, is that offshore wind ports will: “need a lot of large lay down space … to produce these components … that can encompass anywhere from 200 acres up to 600 or more acres … These are large facilities that require deep water access. You need to have … 35 or 40 feet of water at the port … at the dock side to be able to place these units on the water and they need to have a clear shot to the ocean. You can't have bridges in the way. … So, there are very few locations where you can do all that … on the West Coast and on the East Coast. And they're not inexpensive. So, for these ports, the investments are large and you're looking at investments anywhere from $400 million for a small port to upwards of a billion for a larger port.”

Port of Long Beach’s ‘Pier Wind’

Last September, the Port of Long Beach’s Suzanne Plezia told AJOT: “We are doing everything to meet the aggressive timeline that we put in our concept report with the start of construction in January of 2027. So, it's a very challenging … aggressive timeline but that gets our permits in place by mid-2026 … We did a cost and schedule in our concept report. The … cost is estimated at $4.7 billion in 2023 dollars.”

Plezia said that the number of floating wind turbines that will be built to meet the initial goals for offshore wind farms in Northern and Central California will depend on the power generating capacity of the wind turbines which she said would range from 15 MW (megawatts) to 20 MW per turbine. This would call for the construction of 400-500 floating wind turbines: “I think they're going to be trying for 20 megawatt turbines. I think that's what they're hoping for … based on the press releases from each of the developers … when I added them up, they added up to 8 gigawatts. So, if it's 8 gigawatts (i.e., 8,000 megawatts) then that's five hundred and thirty-three 15-megawatt wind turbines or if the wind turbines generate 20 megawatts … it's 400, right? So somewhere between 400 and 533 wind turbines.”

The floating platform for each wind turbine would barely fit inside a baseball stadium such as Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Plezia said.

Dagher concurred: “You are looking at very significant investments to establish these port facilities. So … those are needed if you're going (to) be able to reach our goals of 15 gigawatts by 2035 for floating wind. We need floating wind ports, and we don't have them. So, the question is who will build and finance them? The developers who will use these ports will be paying fees to use them. So that's part of the financing structure. … Also, the states who want the jobs in their state will also need to invest in the ports and then the federal government will need to participate in the investment if we are to achieve the national goals of 45 gigawatts. We could see these as a public-private initiative to put these ports together supported by both the state and federal governments as well as industry projects.”

Maine’s Offshore Wind Plans

Dagher says the University of Maine plans to place a floating wind turbine in operation next year: “We have a project … next year. It's a demonstration project … funded through ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act). It's a new design that's lighter and smaller yet does the same thing that we've been working on. So, we're very excited about that …. It will have a capacity to generate 225 kilowatts.”

Last July, the Associated Press reported that Maine will procure at least 3,000 megawatts of electricity from offshore wind turbines by 2040 under a bill signed by Democratic Governor Janet Mills, enough to power about half of the state's electricity load.

Unlike other projects in the region, the Gulf of Maine wind turbines would showcase floating platform technology because of the depth of the ocean floor.

State officials hope companies will utilize technology from the University of Maine, which has been pioneering precast floating turbines and has tested prototypes off the coast. (See Gary Burrows “Offshore floating wind energy solution for US energy gap” Dec. 18, 2023, issue 760, page 14). Dagher told AJOT that the Maine wind turbines will be powered by: “10-15 megawatt units that would be deployed near the end of the decade.”

Stas Margaronis
Stas Margaronis


Contact Author

© Copyright 1999–2024 American Journal of Transportation. All Rights Reserved