Success Story: WRI Energy in Glens Falls Is Already Immersed in Offshore Wind Industry
With Gov. Andrew Cuomo announcing last month the Port of Albany would host the nation’s first offshore wind (OSW) tower manufacturing facility, it was another sign of how the Capital Region is poised to become a major supply chain hub for the OSW industry. But one local company is already immersed in the industry, and it is becoming more so with the help of the Center for Economic Growth (CEG).
When power cables were laid in 2016 to connect Rhode Island to the Block Island Wind Farm – the nation’s first commercial offshore wind (OSW) farm – a team of marine meteorologists for WRI Energy in Glens Falls provided weather updates for the installers. And last spring when the first two turbines were installed in federal waters off the coast of Virginia, WRI Energy provided the forecasting and routing services that helped the tugs and barges navigate harsh weather conditions as the vessels transported massive turbine blades from the Mexican port city of Altamira to Louisiana. This Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project involved two 6MW turbines, though its related commercial project calls for about 200 more.
WRI Energy is a division of Weather Routing Inc. (WRI), a 60-year old private meteorological consulting firm that provides optimum routing and forecasting services for the commercial shipping, cruise, fishing and maritime racing industries. WRI was founded in New York City but relocated to Glens Falls about four decades ago to take advantage of the upstate city’s lower cost of living. Since moving to the Warren Street Square complex in 2012 its payroll has doubled to 40, many of who are meteorologists and IT specialists. In fact, 12 of its employees graduated from the University of Albany, which has a robust atmospheric sciences program.
Although WRI President Stasu Bizzarro had been hearing about OSW in Europe since the 1990s, he started positioning his firm for that industry when the industry shifted focus to developing the East Coast. WRI representatives started to attend OSW events in 2014. At first, Bizzarro was most interested in the meteorological challenges the industry would face on the East Coast as opposed to the North Sea, and it became clear that international OSW developers could benefit from WRI’s weather modeling, forecasting and historical data.
“From this point forward, every year has been better than the last year,” said Bizzarro.
WRI Energy’s services and products for the OSW industry include historical data on weather patterns that can assist developers in estimating potential energy production and creating budgets for OSW projects. For the owners and transporters of OSW equipment, WRI also provides forecasting and alert services, including lightning detection, ocean currents, severe squall threats, ice concentration, and detailed wind and sea charts.
The firm also provides a SmartWind monitoring dashboard that supports site-specific updates on projected maximum winds, seas, and minimum visibility. Supply contactors who are affiliated with the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project have subscribed to the SmartWind portal, and there are other OSW tier contractors that have subscribed to it as well and utilize the online tools for their operations.
WRI and CEG
In 2018, Bizzarro and WRI’s director of operations, Mark Neiswender, met CEG Director of Energy and Sustainability Peter Lion at a NYSERDA OSW event in New York City. Lion later help connect WRI with international developers, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and others in the maritime industry. One such developer was Vineyard Wind, which will develop an 800MW OSW farm off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Vineyard Wind has added WRI Energy’s service to their supply chain list, and the developer will be requesting tenders later this year and decide then who will be hired for offshore weather support.
“CEG has been a valuable partner over the past two-plus years in aiding the expansion of WRI Energy’s outreach. Our working relationship has been instrumental in setting up virtual meetings with industry leaders as well as local contacts. Lion has guided WRI Energy in completing a company profile that can be easily interpreted by a developer who is investing in the Capital Region supply chain,” Neiswender said.
Since early 2018, CEG has been raising awareness about the Capital Region’s ports with international OSW developers as well as preparing a regional supply chain and workforce. This industry attraction initiative followed the January 2018 release of a NYSERDA report identify the Port of Albany and Port of Coeymans as two of twelve sites statewide capable of supporting the OSW industry.
CEG’s OSW industry attraction efforts have included:
- Raising the Capital Region’s profile at major industry events.
- Highlighting the region’s potential OSW sites, supply chain and talent pipeline.
- Working with NYSERDA and OEMs to build out the region’s OSW supply chain.
- Connecting local manufacturers with OSW OEMs.
East Coast OSW Projects
International OSW developers that received awards under New York’s solicitations from 2019 (1,700MW) and 2020 (2,500MW) are planning for upstate and downstate OSW component manufacturing and assembly operations. The first solicitation’s winners were the 880MW Sunrise Wind, a joint venture of Ørsted A/S and Eversource Energy, and the 816MWEmpire Wind 1, of Equinor Wind. In the recently announced second solicitation, Equinor Wind emerged as the winner for both the 1,260 MW Empire Wind 2 and 1,230MW Beacon Wind.
In the Capital Region, Sunrise Wind plans to make advanced foundation components. Equinor Wind plans to manufacture concrete gravity-base foundations at the Port of Coeymans and at the Port of Albany it will create the nation’s first OSW tower and transition piece manufacturing facility for its projects. The Port of Albany OSW facility alone is expected to create up to 350 direct jobs.
At WRI, Bizzarro is expecting the East Coast OSW business to pick up in late 2021 at the earliest. Vineyard Wind could start construction by late 2021 or mid-2022. Work on the 132MW South Fork Wind could start later in 2021 or 2022. According to Neiswender, the majority of other U.S. East Coast OSW sites appear to be later 2022 or 2023.
“When it happens, it will happen very fast,” said Bizzarro.
For more information about CEG’s Energy and Sustainability Program, contact Program Manager Peter Lion at 518-465-8975 X234 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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