Five years of work to build turbine towers for $1.5b wind energy project

(via TheSpec.com) Hamilton companies have landed the major contracts in a $1.5-billion offshore wind energy project.
It’s expected the majority of 1,900 jobs to build Windstream Energy’s 300-megawatt Wolfe Island Shoals project near Kingston will land in the city as four local firms will fabricate the steel, assemble the components and transport the giant towers across Lake Ontario.
Walters Group will fabricate the structural steel, Hamilton Port Authority will provide the facilities to assemble the parts, McKeil Marine will use its tugs and barges to transport and erect the components and Bermingham Foundation Solutions will secure the massive wind towers to the lake bed.
An official announcement is coming Wednesday morning. No dollar figure for the value of the local contracts is being released.
“Windstream is looking forward to bringing this level of investment, revitalization and job growth to the Hamilton area,” said Ian Baines, the Burlington-based company’s president, in a news release obtained exclusively by The Spectator.
“We are responding directly to Finance Minister Dwight Duncan’s challenge this week to invest and create jobs in Ontario. We are here. We are stepping up to the table. We are ready to invest, the jobs are immediate and real.”
All the companies are part of a manufacturing consortium called the Lake Ontario Offshore Network, formed to lobby governments about the benefits and economic value of wind energy.
But the project doesn’t have a timeline since the Ontario government imposed a moratorium on new projects almost a year ago, saying more scientific study of the impacts of wind energy is needed.
While some, including leading environmental groups, praise it as a source of “clean” energy, neighbours of wind farms protest noise they claim destroys the value of their properties.
“The expertise is found in Hamilton to manufacture, construct, transport and install the structures,” said Windstream spokesperson Randi Rahamim.
“There are no offshore wind projects being built in North American right now … This is a wonderful opportunity for the Ontario economy.”
She said no one has direct experience in building offshore wind projects, so the local companies involved could become go-to experts for other North American jurisdictions looking to get involved in wind energy.
The proposed wind turbine farm, made up of 100 three-megawatt turbines, is being built five to 16 kilometres off the southwest shore of Wolfe Island in eastern Lake Ontario.
An economic impact study commissioned by Windstream said the total Wolfe Island project investment would be $1.36 billion, of which $700 million would remain in Ontario. It would also generate about 1,900 jobs during the five-year construction phase and 175 operational jobs over 20 years.
Councillor Judi Partridge says Hamilton could become a future hub for offshore wind expertise and supply in a “massive market” in the United States.
She says city economic development officials have been working on landing the project for more than a year.
“This project means a number of things, but most importantly it’s creating jobs in a manufacturing sector that are desperately needed.”
Partridge has already served notice that she wants council to reconsider its own moratorium on wind energy projects within the city.
“It was very misguided of us to have a moratorium on the city when our own manufacturers are trying to find work and develop a sector that can provide jobs.”
Local unions are celebrating the job potential of wind energy.
“This is the beginning and one hell of a beginning,” said Tony DePaulo, Hamilton-Niagara regional supervisor of United Steelworkers.
“The Hamilton Port Authority will be dedicating $20 million in physical infrastructure assets to the project,” said president Bruce Wood. “This is an incredible opportunity for the revitalization of Hamilton’s North End, and an illustration of how Canada’s marine highway can be utilized to move large infrastructure projects such as this one.”
Neil Everson, director of economic development for Hamilton, says it’s great news for the city, which has targeted clean technology as one of the pillars of its economic strategy. He says the project will create highly skilled jobs, but also provide opportunities for local apprentices and researchers at McMaster University and the CANMET facility.
“This provides terrific business retention and expansion opportunities, as well as attracting new jobs.”
He said that being first in the marketplace for a new means of energy generation is a key advantage, although he acknowledges that wind energy is highly controversial.
“This is not dissimilar to the oilsands. People will say, ‘Why are you (doing work) out there?’ But the fact is if we’re not fabricating and installing out there, Houston is. We need to take advantage of value-added manufacturing opportunities, because they are crucial to Hamilton.”
Siemens has been awarded the contract to build 130 turbines for the project, which will generate enough energy to power 100,000 homes. The company closed its Hamilton plant last year, so that work will be carried out in its Tillsonburg plant.
There is no timeline for the project. Windstream, a privately held company based in Ontario but backed by American investors, holds the only approved feed-in-tariff contract for offshore wind energy generation in Ontario but the province has yet to give the go-ahead on construction.
There is more than 2,900 MW of offshore wind power proposed in the Great Lakes over the next five years.
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