newlondon portBy Mitchell Young

NEW LONDON: Connecticut will be making a $15 million investment at the Connecticut State Pier in New London, for its potential deployment as a staging site for equipment and workers for the seven offshore wind projects currently planned in the northeast.

Just last week, two major offshore wind projects were approved in the region representing up to 1200 Megawatts of production. Massachusetts approved in early May a 100 turbine project by Orange based Avantgrid’s subsidiary Avantgrid Renewables, based in Portland OR. The company will build the 800 megawatt wind power “farm,” 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, construction is expected to begin in 2019.

Rhode Island also just approved a 400 megawatt proposal by Deepwater Wind of Providence, the developers of a 30 megawatt wind power plant off Block Island, the Northeast’s first.

Connecticut is expected to select from three competing proposals a 200 megawatt offshore wind plant within a few weeks.

Massachusetts passed legislation last August requiring the state’s utilities to purchase 1,600 megawatts of electricity from offshore wind power plants, to be deployed by 2027.

New York and New Jersey are also committing to more than 6,000 megawatts of offshore wind plants.

Governor Dannell Malloy outlined the opportunity for the Pier at an announcement of the $15 million bonding proposal on May 29, saying “in the next 12 years, we expect to see 7 to 8 gigawatts of new, offshore wind power come online in the Northeast alone.

With that new energy comes real economic opportunities for our region. As a result of these improvements, New London will be the perfect location to support the expansion of offshore wind. I have no doubt that the funding we invest today will have lasting economic benefits to the entire region in the years and decades to come.”

Malloy promoted the port’s competitive advantages including a strategic location in proximity to lease areas off the coast of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey; a well-protected harbor with deep water access and a short transit to open sea; no height or width restrictions between the Port of New London and the open sea; and an existing, sophisticated marine industry buoyed by national leaders like Electric Boat and a highly-skilled workforce ready and able to get to work on behalf of a thriving wind industry.

“This strategic investment is a step toward unlocking New London’s unique potential as a hub for the offshore wind industry,” Mayor Michale Passero said. “Today’s announcement is exciting economic news for our city as the redevelopment of the State Pier will spur growth in marine businesses and help revitalize the downtown.”

The Connecticut Port Authority, which was created in 2014 to develop and market the state's ports and promote its maritime economy, oversees the operations of the State Pier.

Port Authority Chairman Scott Bates said. “This investment in the State Pier will pay dividends for years to come in this region and across Connecticut, and New Haven will benefit greatly from a more effective link into the regional freight rail system.”

The CPA expects to issue a request for proposals to run the port "very soon," according to Bates.

Three companies are vying for selection from Connecticut for up to 240 Megawatts of offshore wind power purchase. Two of the proposals are offering direct investment in the New London port as well.

Deepwater Wind backed by the $47 billion global investment company the D. E. Shaw group has included a $15 million investment in the Connecticut Port Authority as part of its proposal and a promise to invest in construction infrastructure for plant fabrication in New London as well.

While Deepwater Wind won the bid for Rhode Island they lost in Massachusetts, The New London Day reported that Deepwater Wind Vice President Matthew Morrissey told the paper the “firm has shifted its strategy to heavily focus on Rhode Island and Connecticut.”

Morrissey also said “New London's prime location, skilled workforce and lack of height restrictions are assets that could drive jobs and development in the region.”

Morrissey outlined an economic development relationship with the city as well.

He told the paper’s editors, “Deepwater Wind's proposed $15 million investment would help the state and New London punch above its weight in future offshore wind deployment. The supply chain at a certain point in Europe will reach an economic threshold where it just makes sense to start manufacturing in the U.S."

As an additional sweetener to be selected for the Connecticut project, Deepwater Wind plans a “host city agreement” with New London, and “a very significant number to fund economic and workforce development. The overall objective is to see industrial development, project after project over several years." The company has committed to leasing 22 acres at the pier as part of its proposal and also says it wants to partner with UCONN and include students from its Avery Point Campus in the project.

The principal components for the Windmills are expected to be made in Europe as was the case with the Block Island Wind Farm, where some assembly was done in Rhode Island.

Morrissey told The Day that Deepwater Wind could assemble the wind farm's substation and perform secondary steel fabrication, such as welding ladders and rails, in New London,” and potentially service other projects as well.

"We're ready to put Connecticut on the map when it comes to offshore wind," Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said in a released statement. "We're the best fit to help make Connecticut's renewable energy goals a reality."

Deepwater isn’t the only company adding some extra benefits to win the project. The partnership of Avantgrid and Copenhagen investment Partners proposal includes $10 million for energy-storage projects through the Connecticut Green Bank and for capital improvements by the CPA.

Eversource [NYSE: ES] and Denmark’s Orsted partnership Bay State Wind, has included $2 million to the Connecticut Economic Development Fund, $4 million for programs that support low income families and $600,000 for scholarships and educational programs.

Connecticut’s shoreline may not be the host to the heavy winds to needed for wind energy but one of Connecticut’s port advocates says its well positioned to take advantage in the offshore energy boom.

"Wind energy has the potential to help power Connecticut's maritime economy," said Bates. "This is an industry that is custom designed to leverage our deepwater ports."