Wind turbine manufacturer Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy could build a factory to produce blades for offshore wind turbines for the US market, the company’s head of government affairs has confirmed
Providing testimony at a Virginia House Committee hearing on new legislation (House Bill 1664) that would provide for the construction of up to 5.2 GW of offshore wind for the state by 2034, Abby Watson said the company was “actively examining” a US$200M blade manufacturing facility in the Hampton Roads area.
As head of government affairs, Ms Watson leads policy at federal, state, and local level for the onshore and offshore wind business in the US.
Addressing the hearing on 7 February 2020, she said the facility, if built, would employ 750 people, including operations and maintenance activity once windfarms had been built.
Ms Watson highlighted that Siemens Gamesa is to supply the offshore wind turbines for the two-turbine Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, the first offshore windfarm in federal waters in the US, that will act as a testbed for Dominion Energy’s plan to build the 2.64-GW Virginia offshore windfarm, for which Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy has been named as the preferred turbine supplier.
“We have a market-leading 4.3-GW of backlog for projects in the US and are actively involved in discussions with stakeholders in several states on how to localise our supply chain to benefit local communities,” Ms Watson said.
“We have had very robust conversations with stakeholders here in the Commonwealth and are actively considering a blade manufacturing facility to support that order backlog.
“This facility would allow us to export to projects outside Virginia and would maximise the economic development benefits for the Hampton Roads region. I have heard it said that an offshore wind hub of the type that exists in Europe could not be built in the US,” Ms Watson said. “We disagree.”
In January 2020, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced an agreement for offshore wind developer Ørsted to lease a portion of the Portsmouth Marine Terminal for offshore wind staging materials and equipment. The agreement was ratified by a unanimous vote of the Virginia Port Authority Board of Commissioners.
Ørsted could use the site for its work on the CVOW project with Dominion Energy, as well as for staging materials and equipment for Ørsted projects up and down the east coast. If fully executed, the lease will run through at least 2026, during which time Ørsted plans to install nearly 3.0 GW of wind energy projects in the United States.
“This is a big step towards making Virginia a leader in wind energy and offshore wind manufacturing,” said Governor Northam at the time. “With the Port of Virginia at its helm, the Hampton Roads region has the trained workforce and the know-how to become a vital hub for offshore wind development. We welcome Ørsted and look forward to the tremendous opportunities ahead of us.”
The agreement between the Port and Ørsted is for an initial lease of 1.7 acres at the Portsmouth Marine Terminal through 2026, with options to expand to an additional 40 acres. If fully executed, the agreement could be worth nearly US$13M in lease payments and result in site upgrades worth more than US$20M for cranes and improvements to a section of the terminal’s berth to ensure heavy load capacity. Those investments would prepare the site for activities such as pre-assembly, staging, and loading of wind turbines for other Ørsted projects.
In late 2018, the Governor released a report providing a roadmap for the offshore wind supply chain in the state, that detailed Virginia’s ‘strategic advantages’ and the potential economic benefits of investing in the offshore wind industry.
The report presented a ‘realistic and immediate opportunity’ for Virginia to establish itself as a hub for the entire east coast offshore wind supply chain.
It highlighted the advantages to the state of developing a supply chain to serve emerging offshore wind projects along the east coast of the US, analysing Virginia’s potential ‘strategic role’ in the industry.