Work is underway to transform State Pier at the mouth of the Thames River in New London into a hub for offshore wind power and other marine innovations along the East Coast.
With $235.5 million in private and public funds secured, and all state permits in hand, the project to enlarge and modernize the facility will result in an evolution significantly enhancing this deep water port’s reputation as a center of marine technology.
Known for generations as home to the skilled workforce that produces nuclear submarines for the U.S. Navy, the port is rapidly becoming a center of excellence for the broader “Blue Technology” sector based on two vital elements: access to the existing tech-savvy marine labor pool, and access to the environment necessary for testing innovative maritime products and services.
Chief among new developments in the Blue Tech sector are several offshore wind power projects that will make the Port of New London home to production and transport of the infrastructure necessary for large-scale wind farms along the East Coast. New London has attracted the attention of significant energy development companies in this sector.
Ørsted, the global leader in offshore wind, and Eversource, New England’s largest energy company and premier electric transmission builder, created a joint venture in February 2019 to develop wind farms along the East Coast.
The joint venture identified State Pier in New London as the ideal staging site for such projects and worked with the city, state, the Connecticut Port Authority, and port operator Gateway to envision and help fund the renovation project. The deep-water port’s proximity to Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean were key considerations providing the impetus for this massive undertaking.
At the core of this project is a $77.5 million investment by the joint venture accompanied by a host-city agreement with New London that provides $5.25 million in lease payments over seven years. The state is investing an additional $160.5 million.
Clearly, Ørsted, based in Denmark, Eversource, and Connecticut are bullish on New London, State Pier, and the opportunities presented by a modernized Port of New London for offshore wind power and other maritime ventures in the Blue Tech sector.
And all partners in this port evolution are moving quickly to ensure the project comes to fruition in a timely manner.
In July, the state released its final $50 million contribution to the project. On Aug. 3 the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection approved the Port Authority’s application for permits allowing “in-water” work, such as dredging seven cubic acres of material between the two piers that now make up the site. The dredge material will be used as fill between the piers to create what developers are calling a “central wharf” where the massive components of a windfarm will be assembled and transferred to specialized vessels for placement offshore.
Work is scheduled for completion by the end of 2022, and project leaders say the port enhancements will create 400 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs.
When windfarm developers are not using the wharf, traditional cargo will be unloaded at the facility as has been done for decades. These improvements, highlighted by the installation of equipment providing “heavy-lift” capabilities, will allow the port of New London to handle a broader range of cargo.
A permit by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allowing “land-side” work at the site is expected to be issued soon, now that all state permits are approved.
Currently, three wind farm projects in the joint venture portfolio are already in the permitting phase based on staging at the renewed State Pier.
Once completed, the facility will become the staging point for Revolution Wind, which will be built off the Connecticut-Rhode Island coast and is designed to serve both states. Offshore wind farms to follow include Sunrise Wind and South Fork Wind, which will be built 30 and 35 miles respectively off the eastern tip of Long Island to serve New York.
While much of the early focus has been on these three projects, the joint venture agreement with the City includes terms that will share the wealth with New London when other offshore wind projects use the pier for staging.
In addition to making New London a hub for the East Coast offshore wind industry, the State Pier project will provide the City yet another significant asset for the region’s already solid Blue Tech economy beyond the production of nuclear submarines.
As U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney said during the announcement of the Ørsted-Eversource-City agreement, all of this activity will ensure that New London remains “the beating heart of our region’s maritime economy.”