ME PORTS: Maine Commissions Infrastructure Study

Maine ports stand to benefit from development of offshore wind generation, but must overcome persistent personnel shortages

15.August, August ME – The State of Maine Governor’s Energy Office has contracted the Xodus Group to undertake an Offshore Wind Supply Chain and Workforce Opportunity Assessment (State of Maine RFP# 202105074), as an initial step toward developing Maine’s offshore wind assets. The Assessment is part of the Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap initiative, and will consume ~$300,000 of the Roadmap’s $2.17 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The Gulf of Maine has among the highest sustained wind speeds in the world, and Maine’s ports would play a major role in any offshore wind development {Kate Cough, the Maine Monitor, 15.Aug.2021.}

Maine offshore wind prospects

University of Maine’s floating VolturnUS demonstration turbine incorporates a concrete semi-submersible hull platform that holds up the turbine. The platform is attached to the seabed with 3-4 mooring lines, with large steel chain links that are connected to drag embedded anchors. The chains hang down from the foundation to the sea bottom, and then lay along the seabed. The floating foundation for each turbine is about 380 feet in diameter. The mooring lines then extend out from the foundation in the water column roughly another 150-200 feet depending on water depth and the type of mooring line used. Together this means the footprint is 700 to 800 feet in diameter.

Anthony Ronzio, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future, said that Maine deep-water ports “could support development of facilities to store, transport and perhaps fabricate offshore wind components. And Maine has the maritime economy and educational institutions that could thrive in an offshore wind industry, on everything from marine research, engineering, manufacturing, shipbuilding, and more” {KC}.

Bill Follett, a member of the Maine Offshore Wind Initiative’s Supply Chain, Workforce Development, Ports, and Marine Transportation Working Group, said Maine’s port infrastructure is not currently adequate to large-scale offshore wind development. For example, Eastport already handles some turbine components for onshore wind farms, but staffing and the lack of adequate railroad and highway links are persistent challenges to growth {KC}.

Searsport, with its robust rail connection to the region’s main lines, and more central location on the Maine coast, may be a better option.

Xodus Group US

Scotland-based Xodus Group focuses on supply chain development for renewable energy projects. They have played an important role in Scotland’s advanced success in harnessing the wind potential of its craggy North Atlantic coastline. In the past year, the company has opened an office in Boston MA. In March.2021, Xodus signed an agreement for similar services with the Hampton Roads (VA) Alliance. The announcement of that agreement included:

The [agreement] will deliver an in-depth offshore wind supply chain assessment and gap analysis for the Hampton Roads metropolitan area and wider Southern Virginia … based upon the requirements of both offshore wind developers and tier one suppliers [and will also] gauge the capabilities of local companies to become key suppliers to the industry.

This work will identify Hampton Road’s supply chain assets as well as uncover any gaps to help the Hampton Roads Alliance in its economic development efforts to support offshore wind.

The [Assessment] entails scoring the supply chain requirements, identifying and assessing key sectors, and analyzing the strengths and limitations of Hampton Roads. It will lead to a set of recommendations for a measurable, strategically focused offshore wind development plan based on available strengths and market forces, including roads for potential investment.

Jeff Tingley, Xodus’ senior consultant in Boston said: “The size of the US offshore wind market creates a need for the development of an entire new US industry … This work aims to … improve efficiency and reduce costs as the scale of development grows, while helping local communities further realize the economic benefits associated with offshore wind …” {Energy Global}.