The U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration has granted $47.4 million to further develop the Baltimore County Offshore Wind Manufacturing Hub, a site once occupied by the world’s largest steel mill.
The funding will largely support modifications needed to accept large freight at the Sparrows Point Steel facility, the first offshore wind component factory in Maryland. Funds will also be used for site remediation and environmental activities. The new facility is currently owned by Tradepoint Atlantic, a United Steelworkers union, that will partner with renewable energy company, Renexia, on the project.
Renexia-owned U.S. Wind will also invest $150 million into the new facility, which the company said will first work to produce steel components needed for its first two offshore wind projects in the state. Eventually, the site will reportedly have the capacity to serve all of the United States East Coast offshore wind market.
Several U.S. lawmakers are involved with the project, including Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and Congressmen Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume, and Jamie Raskin. In a joint statement, the group explained the project’s potential to make Baltimore a premier destination for clean energy growth. Further, the project is expected to generate about 500 union jobs and make Baltimore a competitive manufacturing hub for offshore wind.
The country’s recent scale-up of clean energy manufacturing and renewable energy sources comes with the need to build numerous new facilities, many of which need large amounts of land to operate.
In response, a number of clean energy projects are being built on old energy plants or manufacturing sites, such as the project at hand.
For example, the Department of Energy has identified a number of coal plants that may be converted into nuclear power sites, saving on new construction costs and allowing for quicker, cheaper deployment of new energy sources. Further, retrofitting carbon-intensive factories, such as iron and steel plants, has been found to significantly reduce emissions without having to build new facilities.
While completely new projects will need to be built to scale up clean energy development to meet the country’s net-zero goals, upgrading and retrofitting existing infrastructure may offer another route toward a quick, affordable clean energy transition.