Offshore wind farms require significant investment and planning of waterside ports. Before development of offshore wind turbine farms can begin, states will need to build specialty ships to facilitate the installation process and begin manufacturing wind turbines near the coast. State ports are not currently prepared to handle this increase in manufacturing activity and shipbuilding infrastructure. Port planning and upgrades should begin as soon as possible to prevent a delay in wind development.
In the United Kingdom, the Port of Grimsby has been dedicated to wind activities. Via coordination with local officials and business leaders, it acts strategically with other nearby ports to coordinate supply chain activities including: establishing operations and maintenance hubs, allocating terminal space for offshore wind installation vessels, and allotting space for manufacturing wind turbine components. Phase three of offshore wind turbine installation will bring an additional 1,500 jobs to the Port of Grimsby alone, not counting the United Kingdom’s 6,800 full-time offshore wind jobs. Denmark’s Port of Esbjerg is an example of a successful port that was strategically planned: more than 270 companies and organizations make up the Offshore Center Danmark, an innovation complex for offshore wind. The Port’s Board of Directors invested $183 million over a ten-year period in facilities to create space for wind turbines. The Port of Esbjerg has witnessed continued economic growth: for three consecutive years from 2012 to 2014, the port had its highest profits on record. From 2013 to 2014, wind turbine transport increased by 44 percent and ship calls increased by 21 percent.
States could help prepare their ports for the offshore wind industry via strategic planning and investments like those in Grimsby and Esbjerg. Navigant Consulting reports that, if just one port was upgraded to facilitate the U.S. offshore wind industry, 6,000 full-time employment jobs could be created and $449 million added to the state GDP. Stakeholders involved in the port economy could consider a commission to assess the needs of the port. States could also consider using funds from its transportation infrastructure bank, creating a public-private funding mechanism specifically for port upgrades, or providing low-interest loans via a revolving loan program. To create an industrial cluster that leverages the important state ports and the facilities needed to manufacture and install wind turbines, the states could invest in port planning and infrastructure, ultimately resulting in good local jobs.