Wind project will be powered by skilled workforce

July 1, 2018 GMT

New London — Keith Brothers feels that far too often when local development happens, unions are the last to be contacted, and there’s no early assurance that jobs will be local.

But Brothers, business manager of the Connecticut Laborers District Council and president of the Norwich-New London Building Trades Council, said that’s not the case with Deepwater Wind, which he’s been in contact with for more than a year.

“Clearly Deepwater Wind is a responsible development,” he said. “They’re looking to hire local, trained workers — a union workforce, which benefits the community.”

Brothers finds that, while unemployment in the building trades can rise to 30 or 40 percent in the off-season, it can be below 5 percent during big projects — and that’s what he expects when construction gets going for Deepwater Wind.

Among three bids to bring offshore wind to Connecticut, state regulators on June 13 selected Deepwater Wind. The developer said it will invest 14 an hour and renting an apartment.”

Walter hopes that, as wind farms pop up along the East Coast in years to come, manufacturing of parts — such as gearboxes — can be brought from Europe to the United States.

Daniel McInerney, business agent for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 488, expressed a similar view.

“Obviously the wind energy is not going to go away, so one of the things is over time it’s not going to be cost-effective to ship everything from Europe over to here,” he said.

McInerney said that because New London is such a strategic port — with its rail connection, proximity to I-95 and the lack of overhead restrictions — the city’s workforce could make parts for the turbines.

Different trades see different needs

Carpenters, ironworkers, elevator constructors, crane operators, pile-drivers, welders, millwrights and electricians will be needed to work on the Revolution Wind project.

McInerney said that because of the lack of overhead restrictions from the pier to the ocean, electricians can do more pre-fabrication work on land, rather than in the water.

One decision from Deepwater Wind that Chris Bachant, business representative for the New England Regional Council on Carpenters, awaits is what type of base will be used.

There are four types of bases, he explained: floating, monopile, jacket and gravity. He said the gravity base can be made here at the port, whereas materials for the others come from Europe.

The ultimate decision will come from Deepwater Wind, who Bachant said will “basically survey the ocean bed, and that’s what’s really going to determine what’s best-suited for what they’re going to do.”

Bachant said he has made a commitment to New London Mayor Michael Passero to work with him to bring in local people to fill the jobs.

As an example, Bachant said a project-labor agreement might say that 50 percent of the people working on a project have to be New London County residents and 70 percent Connecticut residents, though he noticed that “percentages are very scary.”

He said of the Revolution Wind Project, “I think it very well could finally be the stimulus that New London has been looking for for a long time.”

Bachant noted that the five turbines at Block Island Wind Farm generated 181,000 man-hours of work — and that the proposal for Revolution Wind is for 75 turbines.

John Humphries, organizer for the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs, is excited for this opportunity for labor and environmental folks to be aligned, saying they historically have not always agreed on environmental issues.

He said that as Millstone eventually retires its reactors, he looks to offshore wind not only to replace power but also to replace jobs.

“We don’t really have a full knowledge of the ripple effects” of Revolution Wind, Humphries said, “but this is going to be an investment of tens of millions of dollars in the region, so it could transform the local economy.”