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Firing up for the future

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The US has its first operational utility scale offshore wind farm. South Fork Wind came online in March 2024, with 12 turbines operational and delivering clean energy to the local grid.

Speaking in anticipation of the switch-on at CMA Shipping 2024, Ulysses Hammond, executive director at Connecticut Port Authority, told attendees that South Fork was set to generate 132MW of power for the state of New York.

The rapid growth of offshore wind power projects in the New York area has seen two finger piers at Connecticut Port Authority’s port of New London transformed into the 40-acre State Pier, the only one on the East Coast capable of marshalling wind turbine nacelles, blades, and towers at one time, said Hammond.

The pier can handle loads up to 5,000lbs per square foot, said Hammond, with 3,000lb/sq ft on the lay down area. Development at the port will support work at the 304MW Revolution Wind project and 934MW Sunrise Wind project, as well as South Fork Wind.

The first turbine was delivered to South Fork on October 31, 2023, with the remainder all delivered and installed in the months since in a busy time for the Port of New London. The completion of the project is a milestone in US offshore wind development, but work on offshore wind projects at Connecticut’s ports will continue after the South Fork switch-on.

‘We are in the process of bringing in another 65 turbines for Revolution Wind, which will bring 704MW of power to Connecticut and Rhode Island. Then behind that, we are scheduled for sunrise wind for 84 turbines that will be bringing power to New York,’ said Hammond.

Gordon Carr, executive director at New Bedford Port Authority, Port of New Bedford, noted the increase in demands from offshore wind, from the 4,100lb/sq ft loading limit at New Bedford, through the 5,000lb/sq ft limit at New London, through the 6,500 lb/sq ft rating at a facility under construction in New Jersey.

The rising capacities reflect change in turbine technology, he said. Speaking about Vineyard Wind, the project served by the Port of New Bedford, Carr said: ‘What’s interesting is that the original project was designed for 1.3MW turbines, and blades that were maybe 75ft long. We’re deploying 14MW turbines, and 310ft blades, so we’re seeing an exponential growth of the industry and the components.’

Carr noted the scale of the challenge ahead in reaching offshore wind power deployment goals. The current pipeline stands at around 1.7GW of power, compared to a goal of 30MW with a deadline in just six years’ time. ‘Think about the amount of port facilities that need to be deployed in order to come close to that,’ he said.

Seatrade MaritimeGlobal Ports Report 2024 Firing up for the Future

Development of facilities in the relatively confined ports of the US Northeast may prove valuable as offshore wind development spreads across the US coast, said Carr. ‘I think once we get down to the middle Atlantic, you may see vastly larger spaces, and a little bit more capacity to deliver some of these things and apply the understanding about how to keep pace with that.’

 

 

Port support

Offshore wind projects have transformed ports in the Northeast US, as facilities adapted or were created to handle the manufacture, transport, installation and servicing of offshore wind farms.

Local, national, and international stakeholders in South Fork Wind lauded the project’s impact on the local economy. As the first of many projects in the region, South Fork helped to create the foundations of a new US supply chain, involving hundreds of workers and three ports on the Northeast.

Local union workers were involved across the project’s scope, from turbine staging and assembly at State Pier in Connecticut, completion of advanced foundation components at Ørsted and Eversource’s fabrication hub at ProvPort, Rhode Island. The first US-built offshore wind substation was constructed for South Fork Wind, involving more than 350 workers across three states, with installation support from New York union workers.

‘The onshore cable scope of work alone created more than 100 union jobs for Long Island skilled trades workers,’ stakeholders said. The cable and ducting work included installation of an underground duct bank system for onshore transmission lines, installation and jointing of the main cables, the manufacture and installation of concrete mattresses to protect cables, and specialised structural steelwork.

Speaking at the announcement of South Fork’s completion, National Climate Advisor to President Biden, Ali Zaidi, said: ‘We are building an American offshore wind industry that activates factories, ports, and shipyards across the country, catalyses Made in America supply chains, and prioritises our workers and communities.’

More to come

The powering-up of South Fork Wind is just the beginning for US offshore wind, as announced projects gain approval and new wind farms continue to be proposed.

Onshore construction is under way for the 704MW Revolution Wind and offshore construction is due to begin soon ahead of operation in 2025. Assembly and marshalling will take place at State Pier Terminal. Another boon for the pier is Sunrise Wind, a 924MW project scheduled to be operational in 2025.

In late March, Ørsted energy submitted its plans to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for Starboard Wind, a 1,184MW project that would leverage the State Pier at New London Port to power Connecticut and Rhode Island.

 

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