Inslee pushes for Washington to become offshore wind manufacturing hub

By: - October 11, 2023 9:58 am
Wind turbines spin at the Arkona wind park in the Baltic Sea on June 5, 2019 off the coast of Sassnitz, Germany.

Wind turbines spin at the Arkona wind park in the Baltic Sea on June 5, 2019 off the coast of Sassnitz, Germany. (Axel Schmidt/Getty Images)

Washington government and business leaders want manufacturers of offshore wind turbines to build equipment in the state.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday announced a new effort to make Washington a preferred location for producing offshore turbine components. The Blue Wind Supply Chain Initiative is a partnership with public and private sector leaders, labor groups and research institutions.

“Washington state wants three things: we want clean air, we want clean electricity, and we want clean energy jobs,” Inslee said.

Generating energy from offshore wind turbines is part of a federal strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Biden administration has a goal of generating 30 gigawatts of energy from offshore wind by 2030.

A number of coastal states are already working with the federal government on siting offshore projects, though Washington is not currently one of them. Oregon’s waters may soon be home to two large wind farms in the Pacific Ocean, though controversy over whether the proposed projects could harm marine life or fisheries remains.

Becoming a hub for offshore wind manufacturing could create an “enormous” number of skilled, union jobs in Washington, Inslee said.

Washington isn’t the only place that sees an opportunity. New Bedford, Massachusetts, and New York City are among the other places around the country where officials have pushed to make their communities leaders in the industry.

How many jobs and the number of manufacturers that could come to Washington and what exactly they would be producing, however, remains unknown – partly because offshore wind projects in the United States are still so new.

The U.S. government only approved its first major offshore wind plans in 2021, an 800-megawatt project off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

Joshua Berger, CEO at Maritime Blue, said those involved in Inslee’s new initiative will meet soon and start prioritizing how Washington can begin establishing an offshore wind supply chain in the region. But first they will need an analysis of what facilities already exist in the state and what might be appropriate to build new.

Inslee emphasized that the industry will likely require a wide range of parts and technology.

“It’s a big deal,” he said.

To meet the federal government’s goal, the United States will need at least 34 manufacturing facilities not currently under construction, said Sloane Perras, vice president at Foss Offshore Wind. These facilities often need to be near water, making Washington’s ports a viable option.

“Our Pacific Northwest coastline is so competitive for the U.S. offshore wind supply chain,” Perras said.

Inslee acknowledged the difficulty in siting and permitting some of these manufacturing projects. He said his office will continue to work with coastal communities, tribes, fishermen, ports and others who use the water to address concerns around permitting.

“We need to design a way to have a rational, transparent process,” he said.

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Laurel Demkovich
Laurel Demkovich

Demkovich joined the Washington State Standard in 2023 after almost three years as a statehouse reporter for the Spokesman-Review. She covers state government, the Legislature and all other Olympia news.

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