Energizing Seaport Communities by Developing Offshore Wind

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Andreas Marcotty (BGA), Catherine Bowes (NWF), Senator Joachim Lohse, Rebecca Bertram (HBF), Michael Williams (BGA). 
Heinrich Boell Foundation

Sharing the Story of Bremen and Bremerhaven: Energizing Seaport Communities by Developing Offshore Wind

November 19, 2012

Europe is experiencing major positive economic effects as a result of its push towards offshore wind in both the Baltic and North Seas. As the European offshore wind rush gets underway, the role of traditional seaports becomes ever more important. In Germany in particular, every major port along its coastline is expanding to meet the growing demand of the offshore wind industry. The advantages of seaports are manifold: A well-developed infrastructure both on land and sea make them the ideal assembling point for offshore projects. Trying together manufacturing, pre-assembly and loading in one single spot has vast benefits over other widespread, less concentrated facilities. The offshore wind industry wants to see heavy load port terminals developed that offer the best possible maintenance service to their wind farm.

On the US Atlantic coast, individual states are increasingly looking into pushing a similar offshore development. In order to get the transatlantic offshore wind discussion going, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, in cooperation with the BlueGreen Alliance and the National Wildlife Federation, organized a Tour for Dr. Joachim Lohse, Senator for the Environment, Construction and Transportation in the City-State of Bremen and Bremerhaven to Washington, D.C., Annapolis and Baltimore in Maryland, as well as Albany in New York from November 13 to 16, 2012. Senator Lohse met with policy makers, business and unions to discuss how best to incentivize and build political momentum for an offshore wind development on the Atlantic coast.

The story of Bremen and Bremerhaven has been a fascinating one. Bremerhaven (English translation: “port of Bremen”) has served as the official port region to the city of Bremen in northern Germany since 1827 and was – during the Cold War – one of the key supply harbors to the US Army stationed in Western Europe. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, however, and with growing competition from Eastern European ports, the region experienced a severe economic downturn. As a result, major shipyards were closed down leading to a sharp rise in unemployment and a dramatic population decrease from 150,000 to 100,000. In 2002, the city council decided to do everything in its power to reverse this trend and saw the potential in turning their port into an economic hub for the offshore wind industry. By the year 2020, the city estimates that the offshore wind industry will provide 14,000 new jobs in the port region alone ranging from manufacturing, research and maintenance. Yet the supply chain goes much further and reaches into other – non coastal – German states. “This has been vital in our efforts to promote offshore wind in Bremen in beyond. In fact, the engineering and construction sector in non-coastal states provide up to 40% of jobs associated with the offshore wind development. The offshore wind business is thus a holistic German endeavor” said Senator Lohse.

Although the United States has much greater offshore wind potential than Northern Europe, no offshore wind facility is yet in operation here. The main obstacle has been the vast upfront costs of the technology and the lack of the political climate that would allow policy makers to get serious. Although a majority of US states have now implemented renewable portfolio standards (RPS) outlining their respective energy, there is no clear target to include offshore wind targets as of today. Yet steel and engineering workers are pushing to see the industry take off and states are increasingly looking into developing offshore wind on the Atlantic coast and compete for the first-mover advantage. As ports traditionally tend to be highly competitive, offshore wind development could in fact be a way in which ports in regional proximity could collaborate to form so-called regional and cross-state offshore wind clusters where expertise, logistics, and supply structures could be bundled in such a way that attracts businesses and investors.

For more information, check out Senator Lohse’s presentation on the offshore wind development in Bremen and Bremerhaven.