Buffalo Offshore Wind Forum
The New York State Environmental Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) held an Offshore Wind Supplier Forum on Dec. 8 at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. The purpose of the Forum was to discuss the various administrative, logistical, and labor issues related to offshore wind farms in New York State. Specific to the state, one of the goals was ensuring wind energy products made locally would be competitive on a worldwide scale. Some more significant goals: building 9,000 MW of offshore wind by 2035, and sourcing 100% from clean energy by 2040.
These were parts of the vision set out by the state's Climate Act of 2019, which has faced challenges in its implementation. As various speakers noted, the federal government is trying to streamline and rationalize the process of supporting offshore wind. But the lingering supply chain issues have put a damper on this effort. Because of this aftereffect of the pandemic, the drive to stimulate is initially being done through investing in port infrastructure. The marquee project involves the Port of Albany, though additional work has been proposed at the Port of Caymans. Another proposed project is the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal. As Bob Winslow of GE Vernova put it, “The market demands sustainability across the supply chain.”
Another issue is finding the right workforce, particularly those who can do “shovel-ready” jobs. For one panel, the real question tended to be, “Hey, how do you recruit younger people?” The solutions recommended: involve more diversity of thought and more recruiting of marginalized communities. The panel also suggested setting up advanced manufacturing training in schools. Another solution is mentorship initiatives to help diverse workers move into blue-collar and white-collar positions. As one speaker noted, these ideas address the difficulty of recruiting and retaining “the diverse workforce a modern business needs to have.”
Ultimately, the forum's speakers centered their discussions on a common theme: with offshore wind, there is a need to use existing tools to build something new. The efforts to resolve supply chain issues could be used to handle offshore construction. Initiatives to rebuild local economies could be great opportunities for suppliers to establish themselves. Current career development programs in hard-hit areas could produce a diverse and qualified workforce. Or as one speaker put it, “Use what we have, and reinvent the wheel.”