NEW LONDON – Twelve 318-foot blades are waiting to be unloaded from a cargo ship in the Thames River. They will soon arrive at State Pier, where they’ll be assembled into turbines and shipped out to sea to the first utility-scale wind farm in the country.
The UHL Fierce, a heavy-lift cargo ship owned by German carrier United Heavy Lift and charted by Siemens Gamesa, brought the Siemens-built blades and four nacelles across the Atlantic Ocean from Germany and Denmark, arriving in New London on Tuesday.
After inspections from the Coast Guard and U.S. Customs, the turbine blades and nacelles – the part connected to the blades that houses the turbine’s generator – are expected to start being unloaded to the New London State Pier starting Wednesday. It will take almost a week to unload all the parts.
The 12 blades – more than twice as tall as the Gold Star Bridge – will outfit four of the 12 turbines that will make up South Fork Wind. Two more shipments of blades will follow in the fall to build all 12 turbines, Connecticut Port Authority Executive Director Ulysses Hammond told CT Examiner.
“Today’s arrival of blades and nacelles is a tremendous milestone in our nation’s efforts to decarbonize and advance our fight against climate change,” Hammond said. “It is also a testament to the critical role that the transformed State Pier will play in constructing offshore wind farms.”
South Fork is the first of three offshore wind projects that Ørsted has leased the New London State Pier to use as a staging area, after a $309.25 million rebuild of the pier to support the turbines’ weight.
The offshore wind partnership of Eversource and Ørsted contributed $98.75 million to the project, with the remaining $210.5 million coming from the state. Ørsted has leased the redeveloped pier for 10 years for those projects.
There are “roughly about three dozen” people working at the pier to assemble the 12 turbines for the 130 megawatt South Fork Wind, Hammond told the board’s finance committee during a Tuesday meeting.
A representative for the partnership of Eversource and Ørsted said there are 20 to 30 people involved in unloading the ship – mostly longshoremen – and they anticipate 60 to 80 in total working on South Fork at the pier.
Hammond said the workforce will be between 80 and 120 workers next year for the much larger, 704 megawatt Revolution Wind project, which will have up to 100 turbines. Hammond said that work will start next spring.
The partnership representative said last week it had finished installing the 13 monopile foundations about 35 miles east of Montauk, New York. The turbines will be put together in New London, then shipped and installed on those foundations, before being connected to the electric grid on Long Island.
Eversource is still in the process of selling its stake in the joint partnership with Danish energy giant Ørsted on three offshore wind projects in the Northeast – South Fork Wind, Revolution, and 880 megawatt Sunrise.
Eversource announced in May that it sold its stake in offshore wind lease areas and wind-related ports to its partner Ørsted, marking off a $331 million impairment charge in its second-quarter earnings report earlier this month.
CFO John Moreira said at the time that Eversource could see additional lost shareholder value if it can’t negotiate a new price for Sunrise Wind with New York energy officials, but that the company expects it will be able to agree on a new price.
CEO Joe Nolan also said the company still expects wind to play a major role in the Northeast’s transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy – with wind predicted to produce more power in the winter when New England struggles with limited supplies of natural gas for its gas-dominated power system.
The company said in May that it expected to sell its stake in the three projects by the end of June, but Nolan said it’s a complex deal with multiple agreements that must be aligned.
“We want to be sure that we get the most money for our shareholders out of that exit,” Nolan said.
The company has said it will use the proceeds from selling its stake to pay down debt, and would focus its efforts on onshore infrastructure to support offshore wind.