Quonset wind turbine training facility on hold, but other port improvements advancing

PLANS TO BUILD a training facility at Quonset Business Park for wind turbine maintenance technicians are on hold, with British company GEV Group saying it may not be able to hire the 123 workers required as part of previously awarded state tax credits. The jobs and training facility are intended to support a growing offshore wind industry, beyond the Block Island Wind Farm, pictured above. / COURTESY ORSTED U.S. OFFSHORE WIND

NORTH KINGSTOWN – Plans to open a training facility for wind turbine maintenance workers at Quonset Business Park are on hold, with the British company behind the proposal unsure it will meet the deadline for state tax credits awarded.

Daniel Boon, vice president for GEV Group, said in an interview on Thursday that he was not confident the company would be able to hire 123 wind turbine maintenance technicians by 2023, a condition of the $1.9 million in tax credits GEV Wind Power US LLC received through R.I Commerce Corp. Per the terms of the state’s Qualified Jobs Incentive Tax Credit, the credits are not awarded until the jobs are created and income tax withholdings are generated.

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Boon cited lack of interest in the jobs the company has advertised as reason for his doubt in fulfilling the terms of the agreement. Since GEV announced plans to locate a headquarters in Rhode Island in 2019, it has been “actively recruiting” for wind turbine maintenance technicians, partnering with Skills for Rhode Island’s Future, Boon said.

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So far, the company has hired just two technicians, in addition to six office employees.

Still, Boon was hopeful that once the company opens its 10,000-square-foot training facility at Quonset, interest in the offshore wind industry as a viable career may take off.

Quonset Development Corp. which operates the business park and Port of Davisville, is also forging ahead with port-related improvements designed to accommodate the offshore wind industry, according to Steven J. King, managing director for Quonset Development Corp. King expected improvements to be completed by 2023.

Crucial to this progress is a $20 million bond for port-related improvements included in the state special election on March 2. Quonset has also applied for a federal grant through the U.S. Commerce Corp., details of which have not been disclosed.

The grant application, which would fund port upgrades to accommodate vessels traveling to and from the offshore wind turbines, is tied to a non-binding agreement with an offshore wind developer.

King declined to name the developer due to nondisclosure agreements, but said they are working through a due diligence period in the hopes of formalizing a contract later on.

Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind power, a subsidiary of Denmark-based wind developer Orsted A/s, has already committed $40 million in investments to ProvPort and the Port of Davisville in conjunction with plans to build a 50-turbine wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island. The company previously announced its original 2023 completion date for Revolution Wind has been pushed back amid federal permitting delays, but has not specified a new timeline. A spokeswoman for Orsted declined to comment on any updates or progress on the project.

But resumption of federal review for another offshore wind project may speed things up.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced earlier this month that it would resume its planned review for the Vineyard Wind project, which had pulled its application due to changes in the size and types of turbines planned for the project. The agency has not yet specified when it will issue its decision on the project.

As the first major offshore wind to go through the federal review process, local industry leaders have largely viewed the timeline and outcome of Vineyard Wind as a direct indicator of when and if other offshore wind projects will move forward, including Revolution Wind.

The new presidential administration, which may include Gov. Gina M. Raimondo in a critical role as U.S. Commerce Secretary, will also benefit efforts to grow the state’s offshore wind sector.

“The previous administration did not have any need or interest in offshore wind,” Boon said, calling the changes in federal leadership and Raimondo’s prominent role an opportunity and an exciting time for the industry.

Whether incoming Gov. Daniel J. McKee will champion the industry locally in the same way as his predecessor is unclear. McKee’s transition office did not respond to multiple inquiries for comment.

R.I. Energy Commissioner Nicholas Ucci also declined to comment on how changes in federal or state leadership might affect the industry.

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.

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