Offshore wind study authors: More outreach needed about industry

·3 min read

Jan. 18—NEW LONDON — Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut President and CEO Tony Sheridan told The Day's Editorial Board on Monday that increased awareness is needed for the offshore wind industry so residents can see its potential for themselves and the region.

He said a recent study, "Embracing the Potential of Offshore Wind in Connecticut: A Study of Opportunities and Challenges," found that there's a great deal of disbelief about the offshore wind industry along with a sense of 'is this really going to happen?' Ørsted and Eversource, offshore wind partners, commissioned the study by McAllister Marine Engineering, and the study was overseen by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.

"This is real," Sheridan said. "This is going to happen. We're either going to capture our share of it or someone else is."

The study, which explores Connecticut's position in the offshore wind industry and potential opportunities, makes recommendations, including in the areas of the supply chain, workforce training, and ports.

Among its recommendations, the study calls for outreach to manufacturers to help them understand opportunities in the offshore wind supply chain, such as pivoting to make a component used in the supply chain, and to offshore wind developers and manufacturers to let them know that Connecticut "is open for business" and has the components needed for the projects.

Sheridan and McAllister Marine Engineering Principal John McAllister and Senior Environmental Scientist Rich Baldwin spoke to The Day's Editorial Board about the study in a one-hour meeting held via Zoom Monday afternoon.

McAllister said that with the growing offshore wind industry, Connecticut can complement, rather than compete with, other states. The study states that President Joe Biden's administration is "committed to developing 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind power by 2030," and some industry models "show the potential of up to 110 GW" offshore wind power by 2050. Thirty gigawatts can power an estimated 10 million homes for one year, according to statistics released by the Biden administration.

Baldwin said Connecticut's strengths include its naval maritime manufacturing and high-tech manufacturing capacity, and he thinks Connecticut can quickly pivot to provide lower-tiered manufacturing components for the wind power supply chain such as nuts, bolts, wiring, electronics and bearings.

McAllister said that while manufacturing for larger components, such as blades, is still worth pursuing, Connecticut faces a lot of competition from other states and the market "is already closing up around it."

Sheridan said the study also recommends a liaison or committee of people from different state agencies to provide a "one-stop shop" to answer questions from potential developers and manufacturers and explain the process to them. States such as New York and Massachusetts provide such assistance.

That way, a company interested in cable manufacturing, for example, could quickly learn to go to the state Department of Economic and Community Development to hear about manufacturing incentives, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to discuss the permitting that is required, and then go to the workforce development board to talk about talent needed for the operation, McAllister explained.

When asked by the Editorial Board about shortages of workers with certain skills and workers in general, and the role the chamber should play in drawing new workers to the region, Sheridan said the region already has several great agencies, such as the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board.

He also pointed to the more than 300 new apartments planned or being built in New London, and a marketing video about the region that is sent to all prospective employees at Electric Boat, Pfizer and other large employers in the region as helping to lure workers.