Study Recommends Connecticut to Up Its Offshore Wind Game

A study into the offshore wind opportunities and challenges in the US State of Connecticut has found that, while the state can already meet many of the industry’s requirements, Connecticut needs to quickly add other elements to attract and fully accommodate the industry, and to position itself higher on the ladder as some other states have already secured a head start with concrete offshore wind procurement and supply chain development plans.

The study, Embracing the Potential of Offshore Wind in Connecticut – A Study of Opportunities and Challenges, was commissioned by Ørsted and Eversource, the developers of the state’s 704 MW Revolution Wind project, and was overseen by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, which appointed McAllister Marine Engineering of Rhode Island to provide the research and produce the report.

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What Connecticut Already Has

According to the report, New London’s proximity to offshore wind lease sites in the Northeast, and its deep-water ports offering quick, unobstructed access to open water is the most significant attraction to the industry.

Connecticut’s deep-water ports are particularly accessible to the existing federal Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) and future Northeast call areas as they have no overhead restrictions such as bridges or overhead power lines, which is a significant advantage offshore wind farm components are transported in a vertical position from port to the offshore construction sites.

The report highlighted, among other things, the joint work between the Revolution Wind joint venture and the state to upgrade the State Pier in New London. As reported on 22 December, the Connecticut Port Authority just received the final in-water work permit and is now set to start with dredging works.

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Furthermore, the study says the supply chain serving the submarine manufacturer General Dynamics Electric Boat and the state’s aerospace industry make Connecticut “a prime location to serve as a hub for East Coast offshore wind projects”.

The supply chain already built around General Dynamics Electric Boat (EB) operations is a robust, developed set of suppliers and manufacturers able to pivot to support offshore wind, according to the report. As for the aerospace industry in the state, it has a unique position to adapt to some of the advanced manufacturing requirements of fixed-bottom wind turbine generators, given its technology and advanced manufacturing capabilities, which will also prove useful for the anticipated uses of floating foundations and concrete gravity-based foundations.

“Lastly, Connecticut has a knowledge and talent base that, with some targeted development programs, could expand to develop a steady pipeline of qualified and highly skilled workforce for the OSW industry”, the report states.

However, as several other states are progressing with their plans to position themselves as offshore wind hubs, the report has listed several strategical recommendations, calling for the state “to act quickly and effectively to capture its fair share of the coming billions of dollars that will be invested over the next few years”.

What Offshore Wind Industry Still Needs

The recommendations are related to the state’s manufacturing capabilities, deep-water ports, workforce development, education, and governance.

According to the report, setting up a centralised state agency or multi-agency committee dedicated to the development of the offshore wind industry would make it easier to do business with the state and to provide one-stop-shopping for state businesses and entities which may want to anchor their operations in Connecticut. A centralised agency would be the central contact, clearinghouse, and promoter of all offshore wind-related things within the state.

Creating a regional partnership with the states in the region is also on the list, with strategic alliances with other interested states being part of this, which would amplify each of the states’ respective positions strengths.

These alliances are also part of the recommendations for state solicitations and procurements. According to the report, a strategic alliance with Rhode Island could be very effective and would help each state compete with other neighboring and East Coast states.

“Connecticut and Rhode Island have 1,100 MW and 600 MW, respectively, of OSW-derived energy that will be procuring in the relatively short term. If they can coordinate their procurements, similar to what is being done with Revolution Wind, then a 1.5 GW procurement will be prominent in the industry and help it stand up against other active states such MA, NY, and NJ. There are already elements of this alliance that can be exploited, like the shared workforce and supply chain talents servicing General Dynamic’s Electric Boat”, the study author McAllister Marine Engineering says.

The report also calls for creating a significant funding mechanism for ports development, saying that the existing port infrastructure and availability “is so limited that investments are needed to redevelop and upgrade port facilities” in order to handle the massive and heavy offshore wind components.

One of the recommendations is to dredge Bridgeport Harbor, one of three deep-water ports in Connecticut.

“[Years] of shoaling and sedimentation have reduced depths, and without dredging of the harbor in the near future, the channel depths will represent a significant limitation and hindrance to future development and deployment of OSW activities from the harbor”, the report states.

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Connecticut also needs to work on actively promoting its existing capabilities and infrastructure that can serve the offshore wind industry, as well as on promoting the existing advanced manufacturing industry into the Tier 2 and Tier 3 supply chain for the OEMs, with a focus towards the nacelle subassemblies, according to the report.

As many states are developing or have already developed a supply chain database, the report calls on Connecticut to do the same in order to provide an effective communications tool for all of the players in the offshore wind industry.

Finally, McAllister Marine Engineering recommends that the state focuses on the workforce that will be needed for future offshore wind projects, which would involve wind engineering programmes and promoting welding and steel working capabilities.

Photo: Ørsted/Illustration