Here’s What It Takes to Be a Leader in the US Offshore Wind Supply Chain

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As states along the U.S. East Coast ramp up their mandates for offshore wind capacity, speculation remains about how the industry’s supply chain will take shape to meet the demand for turbines, boats, labor, specialized services, and more.

Virginia is taking the next step in growing the infrastructure necessary to fulfill that demand with the release of an RFP seeking an expert to develop a plan to strengthen the state’s existing assets.

Gov. Ralph Northam, in a statement yesterday announcing the RFP, said that Virginia should be the “prime location for the offshore wind industry, from the supply chain to the full build out of our offshore wind assets off the coast.”

Among Virginia’s existing infrastructure assets is the Port of Virginia, a group of port facilities that are based around the metropolitan area of Hampton Roads, Va.

According to the governor’s office, the Port of Virginia’s capabilities in unlimited air clearance surpasses other major ports and the region also has open shipping channels and navigational flexibility that make maritime congestion a low-level concern.

“This is the start of a 50-year industry that will stretch up and down the East Coast,” Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball said. “From a logistics standpoint, locating the offshore wind supply chain in Virginia just makes sense.”

The Plan to Expand

In a May 21 request for proposals (RFP), Virginia’s Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy is asking for expertise in developing a report that analyzes the state’s current maritime infrastructure and assets; identifies how to leverage Virginia’s advantages; and provides recommendations on alleviating barriers.

Responses to the RFP are due by June 22.

According to the RFP, the report will build on the 2015 Virginia Offshore Wind Port Readiness Evaluation, which identified specific advantages the state has for accommodating providers of wind turbines and towers, foundation substructures, submarine power cables and offshore substation platforms. The 2015 readiness evaluation said that the East Coast offshore wind industry is progressing at a pace that would necessitate the completion of port upgrades by the end of 2022.

According to the evaluation, the Portsmouth Marine Terminal, one of the Port of Virginia’s principal facilities, could qualify as a “super-port” with an investment of between $11 million and $25 million. A super-port would serve as a manufacturing cluster for three to four facilities and as a construction staging port.

That evaluation also identified two ports, located in New Jersey and Maryland, that could be potential competitors to Virginia for manufacturing activities. Two other ports, located in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, could compete for construction staging services.

Other goals of the new report are to create an electronic toolkit to help connect supply chain partners with local industry, and identify policy and business gaps that need to be overcome for local industry to grow.

Lead image: Port of Virginia’s Norfolk International Terminal. Credit: Missy Schmidt from Hampton Roads, Virginia [CC BY 2.0 | Wikimedia Commons

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