There’s a maritime renaissance building in the Northeast.

There is a maritime renaissance building in the Northeast Corridor (NEC). A quick visit to any one of a more than a dozen small ports along the Corridor’s long coastline and even up the Hudson River, there is activity —activity that no one would have imagined a couple of decades ago. Many of these ports were once considered left for dead, just another backwater, a casualty of containerization. But there is now a bright future for many small and medium sized ports in the region.

And you might say it started, in the unlikeliest of all places, in the Port of Davisville, in Quonset Point, Rhode Island. Nationwide, it isn’t a well-known port, although it should be as it has been a top ten auto processing port (handling 300,000 a year until COVID through a monkey wrench into the auto business). The Port is part of the Quonset Business Park, run by the quasi-state agency Quonset Development Corporation (QDC). [See QDC’s King outlines developments at Quonset Business Park May 24, 2022,] And the big business for the port is handling the ro/ro ships bringing in autos to North Atlantic Distribution (NORAD), the onsite auto processor which opened its doors in 1986 and has processed nearly five million vehicles.

As impressive as the auto processing business has been, in the future the Port of Davisville may well be tagged as the place where it all began — the offshore wind power boom.

The Port of Davisville was the staging area for the Block Island Wind Farm, originally launched in 2009 as a pilot project and now the first commercial offshore wind farm in the US. The five-turbine, 30 MW project was developed by Deepwater Wind in 2009 as a pilot project, now Ørsted US Offshore Wind [part of the Danish Ørsted Group, the largest developer of offshore wind farms and the undisputed leader in the US market with 5,000 gigawatts of projects on the East Coast] and is located 3.8 mi from Block Island, Rhode Island.

Windmill blades being offloaded at the Port of Davisville

Offshore Wind Power Proposals

In March Ørsted and Eversource (the largest electric utility provider in R.I.) announced they have submitted a joint proposal in response to the Rhode Island’s offshore wind solicitation. [see March 15th story] The proposed 884-megawatt Revolution Wind 2 includes significant investments in port improvements and shipbuilding. Should the proposal be accepted, Revolution 2 would be Rhode Island’s first utility-scale offshore wind power project.

The proposal includes “significant investments in the state’s existing ports, including $35 million to realize Quonset Development Corporation’s vision for a Regional Offshore Wind Logistics and Operations Hub at Quonset Point.”

In addition, building on the state’s historic shipbuilding capabilities, Revolution Wind 2 will enable the construction of two new crew transfer vessels in Rhode Island to serve Ørsted’s U.S. portfolio, on top of the five already being built by Blount Boats and Senesco Marine as part of the Revolution Wind investments.

Ørsted is heavily engaged in projects of the NEC. Besides the Revolution projects in Rhode Island and Connecticut, there is Skipjack Wind in Maryland, Ocean Wind 1 and Ocean Wind 2 in New Jersey, South Fork Wind and Sunrise Wind in New York.

In early March the Connecticut Port Authority, announced that the “State Pier Project” had met a milestone [see March 8 story “CT Port Authority State Project reaches “milestone” with the completion of the Northeast Bulkhead (also known as the “delivery berth”) has been completed. As a result, the Port of New London is on track for the assembly and delivery of offshore wind turbines for the Ørsted and Eversource joint venture’s South Fork Wind project this spring. The delivery berth is a heavy-lift platform capable of handling loads of 5,000 pounds per square foot. When fully completed later this year, the 40-acre New London State Pier Terminal will feature two heavy-lift platforms capable of accommodating offshore wind turbine components and a wider range of cargo than the facility had been able to service in the past. Construction of the second heavy-lift platform and southern end of the project will continue through fall without disruption to South Fork Wind operations and will be used to support the staging and assembly of two additional Ørsted/Eversource offshore wind projects, Revolution Wind and Sunrise Wind.

Other Projects in the Pipeline

In April, the above mentioned South Fork Wind received the go-ahead from the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) for the construction of turbines for what is being dubbed as the “first commercial offshore wind farm” in the US. The 132 megawatt (MW), 12-turbine offshore wind farm is about 35 miles east of Montauk Point, and it will deliver electric grid in East Hampton, Long Island, New York through a single subsea cable. The electricity will be sold to the Long Island Power

Authority under the terms of a 20-year agreement.

Back in February, GE filed a plan to build two new offshore wind manufacturing facilities in New York, under the proviso it wins enough orders from companies in New York’s ongoing solicitation (which numbered 100 proposals for eight new projects) for up to 4.6 gigawatts of offshore wind. GE proposed building the factories with Carver Companies at their Port of Coeymans site. The company said that, should it receive sufficient order volume, its LM Wind Power subsidiary would be ready to build a “state-of-the-art facility” for the construction of offshore wind turbine blades.

Last December the state of Massachusetts announced the award of $180 million in funding for projects supporting offshore wind development, including $75 million for upgrades at the Port of New Bedford and $75 million for redevelopment of a site in Salem that could also support floating wind power. Of the $75 million for the Port of New Bedford, $15 million was designated for New Bedford Port Authority to extend its bulkhead and terminal space for the North Terminal, $45 million is earmarked for facility improvements at MassCEC’s New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, and another $15 million for the New Bedford Foss Marine Terminal for the redevelopment of a site.

$75 million was earmarked to Crowley to convert a vacant industrial port in Salem to support “floating” offshore wind power activities — a technique being pioneered at the University of Maine under Dr. Habib Dagher. [See For Matt Miller Feb. 14, 2022, interview with Dr. Dagher]. Crowley bought 42 acres at the former Salem Harbor Station, which will be redeveloped and will serve as the future home of the Salem Harbor Wind Terminal. The New Bedford Foss Marine Terminal facility is expected to open sometime this summer.

There are of course larger ports also involved in this wind driven maritime renaissance. In New Jersey there is the “New Jersey Wind Port” tagged as the “first purpose-built offshore wind marshaling port.” In Baltimore, at the TradePoint Atlantic site, Ørsted Wind and US Wind, a Baltimore subsidiary of Italian-renewable energy firm Renexia SpA, signed lease agreements to support their offshore wind activities. Recently the Maryland legislature passed the “Promoting Offshore Wind Energy Resources (POWER) Act, which would quadruple the State’s offshore wind energy goal — it calls for building 8.5 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2031.

While Maryland’s POWER Act may look ambitious today, it underscores how fast the drive for offshore wind power is moving and the maritime renaissance that will be needed to support the future.