New York Fights Its Neighbors for Offshore Windmills

Wall Street Journal |  Erin Ailworth | July 24, 2018

In Fall River, a former textile hub on the Massachusetts coast, Bristol County economic development director Kenneth Fiola touts waterfront land and a workforce rooted in manufacturing as reasons the city would make a perfect base for the American offshore wind industry.

In Providence, R.I., officials are promoting their port’s experience helping build the country’s first offshore wind farm off Block Island. In Virginia, representatives are selling the advantages of a waterway with no bridges that would ease the transportation of enormous pieces of the building-size wind turbines.

All along the East Coast, politicians and economic development officials are beginning to pitch their communities as potential hubs for the burgeoning U.S. offshore wind industry. Offshore wind developers, which have largely focused on coastal Europe thus far, have plans to build a dozen utility-scale farms off the U.S. side of the Atlantic in coming years, spurring billions in investment and thousands of jobs.

The competition has ratcheted up this year, with leaders in some states, including New York and New Jersey, pushing aggressive wind-energy procurement goals and pledging financial support to develop the necessary infrastructure and workforce.

“Every state is going to be in this for themselves,” said Dan Shreve, director at Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables, which forecasts the U.S. will have offshore wind farms capable of generating nearly 6 gigawatts by the end of 2027. “The need to achieve first mover advantage is significant.”

That’s because the offshore wind industry and its supply chain are likely to concentrate U.S. operations—and the resulting construction, manufacturing and maintenance jobs—in only a few key locations.

“We’re not all going to be Lake Wobegon, where everyone is above average,” said Roberto Simon, an analyst with Société Générale . “Not everyone can have a facility in their state, though everyone will want a facility in their state.”

Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey have all set aggressive offshore wind energy goalsthat call for a combined 7.5 gigawatts by 2030. New York earlier this month said it would soon solicit bids for 800 megawatts of offshore wind generation, and expects to announce an award by mid-2019.

“We have so much going for us,” said Alicia Barton, chief executive of the New York State Research and Development Authority, which has been directed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to invest $15 million in developing the workforce and infrastructure necessary to support the offshore wind industry. “This is going to happen, and because we are serious about it, a lot of it is going to happen here.”

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