Maryland’s Offshore Wind Energy Industry is Accelerating and Viewed as a Hub For Jobs and a Manufacturing Revival

Offshore Wind

Maryland and Baltimore can play major roles in the development of the offshore wind energy industry, which is still in its early stages in the U.S., but growing at an accelerating pace, according to a panel of wind energy experts.

The industry’s growth could mean thousands of jobs for Maryland and a return of manufacturing to the sprawling Tradepoint Atlantic industrial site which was once the home of Bethlehem Steel, famous for steelmaking and ship building.

“We are going to go from zero to 60 in the United States as quicky as possible,” said Sam Salustro, Director for Coalition and Strategic Partnerships, for Baltimore-based Business Network for Offshore Wind.

“Maryland has a real chance to be a hub for offshore wind domestic manufacturing in this country,” noted Nancy Sopko, Director, External Affairs at Baltimore-based US Wind Inc. “It has a real chance to be the hub of the spoke. We are … set well to grab hold of the leadership position on the East Coast in offshore wind.”

Sopko and Salustro were part of a panel discussion organized by Think on the future of offshore wind in Maryland. The discussion was held at Arnold Packaging’s new facility on Tradepoint Atlantic’s 3,300-acre site.

They were joined by Brady Walker, Market Manager Mid-Atlantic Offshore Wind, Ørsted; Teaera Strum, CEO, Strum Contracting Company, and Sam Beirne, Energy Program Manager, Maryland Energy Administration. The panel was moderated by Todd N. Sabin, Manufacturing Program Manager at the Maryland Department of Commerce. 

While still in its infancy the offshore wind energy industry in Maryland is gaining momentum, the experts said.

Ørsted, a worldwide leader in offshore wind energy, is developing the Skipjack Wind 1, a 120-megawatt offshore wind energy project in Maryland that will power 40,000 homes, generate $225 million in economic investment in the state, and create nearly 1,400 jobs. 

In March, it announced the completion of the initial phase of Maryland’s first offshore wind staging center at Tradepoint Atlantic. Ørsted and Tradepoint Atlantic said a second phase of the staging center is in the works, which is development of 50 additional acres of land for the laydown, storage, and assembly of offshore wind components.

In October, Ørsted announced plans to build Maryland’s first emissions-free offshore wind operations and maintenance facility in west Ocean City. The nearly $20 million facility will service the Skipjack Wind program, create up to 110 temporary and permanent jobs, and position Ocean City as a strategic hub for offshore wind jobs and economic activity.  

“The idea is let’s make these investments and create the jobs but also create longevity,” Walker said.  “In the U.S. we are at such a unique place and time. This is a brand-new industry. It really is here.”

U.S. Wind, an offshore wind energy development company, has embarked on an offshore wind facility that will deliver roughly 270 megawatts of clean, renewable energy. The project, called MarWin, will consist of 22 turbines off Ocean City and will power nearly 80,000 homes. U.S. wind holds the lease rights to 12-27 statute miles off Ocean City, which has the capacity to generate enough energy to power more than 500,000 homes.

Anticipating growth, U.S. Wind is looking to add contractors and has focused on attracting minority businesses. “We are getting out there. We are and letting people know about the opportunities that exist on our projects,” Sopko said.

One minority owned company that is making its mark is Strum Contracting Company, a national heavy civil infrastructure contractor that installs structural steel elements for industrial-grade structures like bridges, pipelines, power generation facilities, and renewable energy projects. 

Strum said she is recruiting employees from community colleges, trade schools and workforce development organizations. She is also working with the Department of Labor and Veterans Affairs to recruit veterans. One of the attractive features about working for Strum is the pay.  

Employees who are doing piledriving work are earning $57 an hour. “That is nothing to sneeze at,” Strum said.

While Strum said she can teach welding it is work ethic that is crucial and the softer skills that can make or break an employee. “Do you come to work on time?” she asked.  “You have to be at that gate at 6:15 in the morning to get in and ready to start your job at 7. You have to be able to want to do this work.”

The state of Maryland and Business Network are key players in developing talent by offering training programs, classes, seminars, certifications, and grants. They are also funding internships and apprenticeships to train the next generation.

Beirne, the Energy Program Manager with the Maryland Energy Administration, said his office has put together a suite of resources to help people get involved, while also offering grant programs to small, minority and veteran-owned business.

He said the state is training the next generation of offshore wind workers and operators, and he is optimistic about the future of the industry.

Said Beirne, “We are at the very early stages of this.”