Rhode Island breaks ground on offshore wind port project

Officials broke ground on an offshore wind port project in Rhode Island that is intended to create a hub for the industry’s growth in the Northeast.

The project at South Quay Marine Terminal is expected to support an offshore wind turbine staging area. Funding will be used to finish design work and develop the waterfront portion of the terminal, which is around 17 miles south of Providence.

The first phase includes multiple components:

  • A 525-foot berth, with a cofferdam bulkhead and concrete platform, that is expected to provide space for a single large vessel (such as an offshore wind installation vessel), or two barges, which are projected to be used for early-mover offshore wind projects. 
  • Fendering, bollards, and water service at the bulkhead to accommodate large vessels. 
  • Roughly 10 acres of laydown area near the bulkhead. This laydown area would allow for storage of materials/components. 
  • Additional site grading and land improvements.

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee directed $35 million from the state’s American Rescue Plan funds to support the South Quay project.

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Rhode Island is racing to become a regional hub for the offshore wind industry in the Northeast.

With access to New England, Canada, and the U.S. Midwest markets, South Quay could help streamline the offshore wind supply chain in Rhode Island.

The site is located within 75 nautical miles of the Massachusetts and New York Wind Lease, which are expected to rely on such sites for manufacturing, storage and construction. The site is also accessible to nearby highway systems, potentially decreasing time and cost for the transportation of goods. 

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Officials from the Quonset Development Corporation joined state and local officials to cut the ribbon on the modernized Pier 2 at Quonset’s Port of Davisville. (Courtesy: Rhode Island Governor’s Office)

In July, the state announced that an $83 million expansion and modernization project at Quonset’s Port of Davisville had been completed.

The project extended Pier 2 by 232 feet, created a third berthing space and dredged the port to accommodate larger ships— enhancements crucial for the buildout of wind projects off Rhode Island’s coast.

The modernization effort, with voter-approved funding, was completed $7 million under budget.

McKee set a target in June for the state to operate 100% with renewable energy by 2033.

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Dominion Energy, Ørsted and Eversource Reach Deal on Contract to Charter Offshore Wind Turbine Installation Vessel (Courtesy: Dominion Energy)

Port infrastructure capable of supporting the budding U.S. offshore wind industry could be one of the biggest hindrances to its growth.

A study released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in March found that few ports were currently capable of fully supporting offshore wind energy activities, investments are underway at several ports along the Eastern Seaboard.

Of the 22 East Coast ports analyzed by NREL for their ability to support fixed-bottom offshore wind activities, only the Portsmouth Marine Terminal in Virginia had existing capabilities to support the loadout of wind turbine installation vessels.

The Portsmouth Marine Terminal is expected to support Dominion Energy’s 2.6 GW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project. Dominion will use 72 acres at the port for staging and pre-assembly of foundations and turbines. Siemens Gamesa is building a blade finishing facility. Ørsted will also have a presence at the port.

Equinor and bp, meanwhile, have said they plan to invest up to $250 million to build an offshore wind staging and assembly hub at the Sustainable South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in New York. Foss Maritime is redeveloping 30 acres at the Port of New Bedford in Massachusetts to support the Vineyard Wind 1 and Mayflower Wind projects.

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Author: John Engel

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