New London port faces dynamic decade

December 16, 2018

New London could well realize a transformative decade in the 2020s, with the events in the coming year setting the stage for the nature and degree of that transformation.

The city’s underutilized port should become a bustling industrial area servicing the explosive growth of green energy technology, a staging area for large wind farms developed offshore and feeding a hungry northeastern grid.

In a presentation at a Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut breakfast last week, Ryan Chaytors of Orsted, a Danish company that is one of the world’s largest offshore wind energy developers, provided a glimpse of how big the city, region and state should be thinking.

In October, Orsted announced it had acquired Rhode Island rival Deepwater Wind for 100 million investment to make the New London port “a first-rate port facility,” an investment he said would likely come from a public-private partnership.

Most immediately, the port authority must select an entity to manage State Pier. Among the suitors is Gateway Terminal, which is collaborating with Orsted. The advantages of this arrangement in developing the New London port into a staging and manufacturing hub for offshore wind development are obvious. This is a project that could play out over two decades.

But the pitfalls are also apparent. New London needs a port that serves varied shipping interests. Chaytors told his chamber audience Gateway would support diverse operations. The port authority needs to document that commitment before making its choice of an operator for the port.

Meanwhile decisions must be made about the future of the adjacent Crystal Avenue property, where two recently abandoned public housing complexes sit vacant. Adding the seven useable acres of that property would expand the pier area to about 23 acres, improving its viability. New London Mayor Michael Passero said that early estimates placed demolition costs at 25 million fund to spur growth in the local economy and to support job training and environmental stewardship programs. Much of that compensation needs to center in New London and over a sustained period.

If things line up — expanded wind generation production, a plan to clean up the Crystal Avenue property, a dynamic port manager — New London and the larger region could see explosive growth in the coming decade. The question is whether they line up in the coming year.


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