As construction begins on the first offshore wind project meant to be staged out of New London’s State Pier, looming deadlines are driving up costs as officials work out the final price of the pier’s redevelopment.
At a Connecticut Port Authority board meeting last week, Chairman David Kooris said there has been close coordination with Eversource and Ørsted to make sure the State Pier project is finished in time to be used on their 132-megawatt South Fork Wind project, which had a ceremonial groundbreaking this month in Long Island, and is supposed to go online in late 2023.
The final cost is still being negotiated between the Port Authority, Connecticut Department of Administrative Services, the construction manager Omaha, Nebraska-based Kiewit, and construction administrator AECOM – and Kooris said he expects it will be brought to the board in a special meeting in March.
The projected cost of the project has ballooned from $93 million when it was announced in 2019 to a projected total cost of $235 million last year. The project has also been pulled into an FBI investigation of former Office of Policy and Management Deputy Secretary Kosta Diamantis, who was the state’s point person on procurement for the State Pier project and is being investigated by the FBI for his actions as head of the state’s school construction grants program – as CT Mirror has reported.
In a statement responding to questions from CT Examiner, Port Authority spokesman Andrew Lavigne said the project team has acknowledged costs associated with delays in the permitting process from “interventions, objections, exceptions and appeals,” which extended the construction time of the project. Environmental permits that the authority expected last March were approved in December, delaying construction on the pier.
“Schedule and budget are equally important. As a matter of fact, they drive each other – the cost can drive the schedule and the schedule can drive the cost,” Department of Administrative Services Deputy Commissioner Noel Petra told the board last week.
“We’re looking at that very, very closely. If you’re looking at a construction project correctly, you’re looking at the schedule just as closely as you are the budget, because if the schedule goes over, it drives the budget, and vice versa.”The offshore wind partnership between Eversource and Ørsted has contributed $75 million to redevelop the New London State Pier into a staging area for its three proposed wind projects off the coasts of Long Island and Rhode Island – South Fork, the 704-MW Revolution Wind and the 880-MW Sunrise Wind.
“It’s probably the best site for this work between Norfolk, Virginia, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, and only 60 to 65 miles from our nearest turbine locations,” Eversource CEO Joe Nolan said in an earnings call last week.
Nolan said he believes the redeveloped pier would be a “key strategic advantage” to the Eversource-Ørsted partnership given its proximity to their 550 square mile offshore wind lease area in the Atlantic Ocean, where he said the companies plan to build at least 4,000 megawatts worth of projects in the coming years – about double what is already planned between South Fork, Sunrise and Revolution.
The South Fork project – which will include twelve turbines about 35 miles east of Montauk Point – is the first of the three projects to gain approval. Onshore construction of a substation in East Hampton to connect into the Long Island power grid is underway.
The companies intend to use the redeveloped State Pier as the staging ground for assembly of the turbines themselves starting in early 2023.
Mike Ausere, vice president of business development for Eversource, told CT Examiner in a recent interview that the turbines for all three projects will be pre-assembled at State Pier and brought out to the project at sea by feeder barges for South Fork Wind and using a ship Dominion Energy built specifically for offshore wind projects for Revolution Wind and Sunrise Wind.
At the Port Authority meeting last week, board member John Johnson said that, considering how important timing is for this project, they might have to consider expanding construction to 16-hour days from 8-hour days.
Keeping a lid on the cost is important, but the project schedule is just as important, Johnson said.
Kooris agreed, saying they were “exploring everything,” and planned to have a final price before the board at a special meeting before its next regular meeting in April.
Department of Administrative Services Deputy Commissioner Noel Petra, whose department is now leading the negotiations with Kiewitt and AECOM, told the board they were working to “wrestle” the schedule and price.
“It’s really a negotiation,” Petra said. “It hasn’t been cut and dry like I would like it. But we’re working with them to get there.”
Editor’s note: This article was updated to clarify projects that will use Dominion Energy’s ship, and to correct a quote attributed to David Kooris (the correct speaker was Department of Administrative Services Deputy Commissioner Noel Petra)