Thursday, July 12, 2012

Building for the Future - Expanding Wind Power Manufacturing In NYC Metro Area

Wind power, and more specifically, offshore wind power, has the potential to generate renewable energy and manufacturing jobs. There are several projects that are in the planning phase up and down the East Coast, including Massachusetts and New Jersey that would build major wind power facilities offshore.

Locating facilities where the parts are made is a daunting task, particularly when you understand the size and complexity of the parts needed to make a single wind turbine. We're talking about parts that cannot easily fit on a tractor trailer. Some of these structures can be hundreds of feet tall and need massive equipment to erect.

In fact, it makes sense to build such a manufacturing facility next to an existing rail link and in close proximity to an existing port facility to reduce manufacturing and shipping costs of the end products. That's why Poland's legendary Gdansk shipyard (birthplace of the Solidarity movement) has gotten into manufacturing of wind power systems.

A major cost in their manufacture is their problematic transport, and the decision by Gaardbo's company GSG Towers to invest 250 million zlotys ($73.48 million) in production in Gdansk was largely based on the advantage of being able to load the tubes directly onto ships in the old free city's harbour on the Baltic.

"It is the perfect place for this; as they say, location, location, location. About 30 per cent of the cost of wind towers is transport," he says.

"We are proud to be helping this historic site. Maybe it's because I am an outsider I have to admit that I feel deep responsibility for the people and this place."

The yard, spread over a series of islands and canals in Gdansk's historic town centre, employed as many as 20,000 workers in its heyday in the 1970s and 80s and was almost a town in its own right, with bars, buses and shops.

Much of the period since has been one of struggle for the city's ordinary working population and the shipyard's reinvigoration is a symbol of the investment which has made Poland one of Europe's few recent economic success stories.

That the Gdansk shipyard found new life in wind power suggests that a similar venture could have tremendous economic potential in the New York metro area.

That means a port like New York/New Jersey could be home to a wind power manufacturing facility. It could reduce time to install new wind turbines and become a major player in refurbishing and repairing existing turbines.

There are several parcels within the New York/NJ Port that could be suitable for building wind turbines, including locations in Sunset Park, Brooklyn or Port Jersey. The Brooklyn Navy Yards might be a suitable location though it lacks the rail connections of the other locations and is constrained due to redevelopment of significant portions of the site to other purposes.

Consider that GE sought to build a $100 million plant in the UK, which would generate 1,900 jobs to support an offshore wind turbine factory. A similar facility in the New York metro area would have a tremendous spinoff capability, enabling still more economic development around wind and renewable energy facilities.

At a time when the Port Authority and New York City is looking to redevelop portions of the waterfront away from manufacturing or shipping, this has the potential to generate new jobs and economic development and shouldn't be overlooked.


 


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