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Region aims to become an East Coast offshore wind hub

Posted

September 29, 2021




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Elizabeth cooper


As Dominion Energy’s offshore wind farm nears construction, business leaders plan to manufacture more turbine parts at Hampton Roads. Photo by Mark Rhodes

Featuring one of North America’s largest ports, congestion-free shipping canals, and the highest percentage of maritime workers in the country, Hampton Roads is preparing to become the hub of the coast’s supply chain. is for the offshore wind industry.

These attributes, say local leaders, set the region apart in the race to build the nascent carbon-neutral energy sector. The US Department of Energy estimates that offshore wind farms being developed off the east coast will support up to 86,000 jobs and provide up to $ 25 billion in economic output by 2030.

Currently, the projects rely on a European supply chain for their huge turbines, blades, generators and foundations, but shipping these mechanisms overseas to the United States is expensive, time consuming and risky. That’s why the east coast states are eager to cut out the middleman by manufacturing the components in the United States and delivering them to offshore wind projects along the Atlantic coast.

The wide and deep harbor of Hampton Roads, free from draft restrictions imposed by bridges and other overhead structures, combined with its abundance of terminal facilities and waterfront industrial sites, as well as a large skilled workforce in shipbuilding and repair, give the region a strong selling point to attract companies involved in the manufacture, installation and maintenance of offshore wind components. In addition, the state offers favorable incentives for businesses such as lower taxes and labor costs and fewer regulations.

“Right now, the industry is emerging in the United States, and all of the states that have [offshore wind] the projects have the ambition to win economically, ”said Matt Smith, director of offshore wind business development for the Hampton Roads Alliance. “We have a lot of advantages at Hampton Roads with the structure and manpower of the port, but we have to compete for offshore wind to become the fourth pillar of [the region’s] economy ”, after the army, the port of Virginia and tourism.

According to an economic impact analysis from Glen Allen-based Mangum Economics, the East Coast offshore wind industry would support around 5,200 Virginia-based jobs, mostly in Hampton Roads, as the companies help develop a gigawatt of new generation. offshore wind energy per year. Growing offshore wind at this rate would generate $ 270 million in wages and benefits, as well as a regional economic impact of $ 740 million, including $ 21 million in local government revenue for Hampton Roads and $ 18 million. of the state of Virginia tax revenue.

Center stage

Many of these benefits will come from the 2.6 gigawatt, $ 7.8 billion Virginia coastal wind project planned by Dominion Energy Inc. Scheduled for completion in 2026, the offshore wind farm will include approximately 180 massive wind turbines. erected in federal waters 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Approximately 900 jobs will be created during construction and 1,100 for operation and maintenance over the approximately 30-year life of the project. This could result in a local economic impact of around $ 210 million.

Additionally, Hampton Roads stands ready to support development of Avangrid Renewables’ 2,500 megawatt project off Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. This project is expected to create more than 800 jobs, with an impact of $ 2 billion on the economies of Virginia and North Carolina over the next decade.

About 625 job titles exist in the offshore wind industry, of which more than 120 are industry-specific, says Shawn Avery, president and CEO of the Hampton Roads Workforce Council. ” That’s all [skill] levels, from high school graduates to community college and to four-year graduates. It really covers the whole gamut, ”he says.

Engineers and scientists, as well as skilled tradespeople like welders and electricians, will be needed to support offshore wind farms.

About 90% of the skills required in the offshore wind industry match those of other local maritime industries. “Hampton Roads is built on these skills,” says Avery. “We have many strengths to make us the location of choice for the offshore wind supply chain hub. “

Earlier this year, the state launched the Mid-Atlantic Training Alliance at Centura College in Virginia Beach, the Mid-Atlantic Maritime Academy, and the New College Institute in Martinsville, all of which will offer wind-related training courses certified by the Global Wind Organization. Community colleges and universities also offer similar training opportunities.

Last year, Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland formed a partnership to promote the Southeast and Mid Atlantic as a hub in the offshore wind supply chain. “Each state plays on the strengths of the other and works together so that businesses see us as a group of states offering a representative sample of their strengths,” said Smith. “It makes us more competitive overall.”

With a satellite office in Germany, the Hampton Roads Alliance markets the assets of Hampton Roads to European companies planning to manufacture wind turbines and blades in the United States. “We make sure that companies understand our strengths as a region and can position themselves to be part of the supply chain. ”

Smith notes that a study prepared earlier this year for the North Carolina Department of Commerce gave Portsmouth Marine Terminal and Lambert’s Point Docks Inc. high marks for their willingness to support offshore wind manufacturing. Danish renewable energy company Ørsted is already leasing part of the Portsmouth marine terminal at the Port of Virginia to put in place materials and equipment for its offshore wind projects in six states. And in August, Dominion reached an agreement with the port to lease part of the Portsmouth marine terminal as a staging and pre-assembly area for the turbines needed for its coastal wind project in Virginia.

Wind trade

Hampton Roads is also looking to capitalize on Dominion’s $ 500 million, 472-foot wind power component installation vessel, the Charybdis. Currently under construction in Brownsville, Texas, the vessel is expected to enter service in 2023, when it will transport materials to two offshore wind farms under construction in New England. Charybdis is the country’s first offshore wind vessel to comply with the Jones Act, which requires goods shipped between US ports to be carried on US-built vessels. “Being the home port for the only wind turbine installation vessel in the United States is just one thing that can help us become the industry’s center of gravity,” says Smith.

With huge economic benefits at stake, the next three years are key to attracting business and developing the region as a supply chain hub, said Robert Crum, executive director of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission.

This summer, HRPDC’s board of directors approved a resolution encouraging the General Assembly to create a $ 30 million economic development fund to help businesses offset expenses related to training and certification of workers, the development of new products and the upgrading of equipment. “Sometimes the process of migrating businesses to supply chain support costs money and takes time,” notes Crum. “We believe this fund will help businesses offset the costs.”

Companies new to the Hampton Roads offshore wind industry have an entry point to the region through the Virginia Offshore Wind Landing, a workspace in downtown Norfolk for offshore and offshore wind companies wishing to establish a presence at Hampton Roads to collaborate and access resources. Space is a partnership between Virginia Energy (formerly Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy); the Hampton Roads Alliance; and the OpenSeas Technology Innovation Center at Old Dominion University.

“It’s a very convenient setup,” says Nancy Grden, executive director of the Hampton Roads Maritime Collaboration for ODU Growth and Innovation. “Interested companies can come together and find out what’s available here. “

Jerry Cronin, executive director of the OpenSeas technology hub, agrees, saying, “If we do our job well, we will see the growth of new businesses, and existing businesses will create new lines of business and attract new businesses. Trained to meet the challenges and opportunities of the maritime industry, the hub will help companies commercialize offshore wind innovations.

“There are broader implications,” he adds. “Something done with offshore wind could be useful for ports or the Navy. Hampton Roads is where the game is event.”

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