SCHENECTADY – General Electric Co. has been quietly meeting with state and local officials in recent months about building a new offshore wind manufacturing facility in the region, along with potential government subsidies that would be available for such a venture, state lobbying records show.
The behind-the-scenes talks have been happening as U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer of New York has been pressing the CEOs of GE and Vestas, a Danish wind turbine maker, to consider establishing manufacturing sites in the Capital Region.
Most offshore wind turbine parts are currently made in Europe and Asia where the majority of existing offshore wind farms are located, although manufacturers are now looking to the U.S. as offshore wind becomes more popular here. A handful of turbine or turbine parts-makers have set up shop in the U.S. so far.
“New York is already committed to making bold investments in offshore wind, and with the federal incentives I am fighting to deliver for the clean energy sector and for manufacturing, GE and Vestas can reach new heights by choosing upstate New York for new job-creating manufacturing investment,” Schumer said in a statement on Thursday.
In October, Vestas was selected as the preferred supplier to two offshore wind farms being built off Long Island, the Empire Wind 1 and Empire Wind 2 projects. The two projects will produce enough power for 1 million homes.
State lobbying records show that GE executives and lobbyists with Plummer & Wigger in Albany have spoken about potential plans for a new wind turbine manufacturing facility with officials at Empire State Development, the state’s economic development arm, as well as top officials at the Port of Albany and the Rensselaer County Industrial Development Agency. NYSERDA, the state’s clean energy development agency, was also involved.
The meetings were about a “prospective offshore wind manufacturing facility,” the records show, although the exact location and size of the facility and other details like job numbers or project costs were not mentioned in the filings.
GE makes its offshore wind turbines in France, which is also where GE’s renewable energy business is headquartered. No decision has been made yet whether the company needs to build an offshore wind turbine factory in the U.S. or whether New York state would be the best location. A number of factors, including orders, customer locations and the global business environment, have to be considered.
“We have regular discussions with key stakeholders in New York state on a host of energy topics that are important to us, including the future of offshore wind,” GE said in a statement provided to the Times Union. “New York has been out front as a key leader in advancing offshore wind in the U.S. We will continue to engage with federal, state and local officials on this topic and other important clean energy priorities.”
The Port of Albany is already preparing a new site along the Hudson River in the town of Bethlehem for a $350 million offshore wind turbine tower assembly site that would create hundreds of new jobs. The towers are being made by a joint venture of two firms, Marmen and Welcon, that are supplying the towers for the Vestas turbines that will be used in the Empire Wind farms.
It is unclear if GE is looking to make some or all of the components that make up offshore wind turbines at the potential new facility.
GE makes steam turbines and generators used in gas-fired power plants at its Schenectady campus, which is also the headquarters for GE Power. While GE’s renewable energy unit is based in France, GE also has many wind experts and engineers working out of Schenectady.
Schumer has been asking GE CEO Larry Culp for months now to consider the Capital Region for a new U.S. factory that he says GE is considering for its new Haliade-X offshore wind turbines. The Haliade-X is currently built in France by GE’s renewable energy unit. Like the turbines that Vestas makes, each Haliade-X unit can generate enough electricity each day to power up to 20,000 homes.
Schumer also recently met with Laura Beane, head of North American operations for Vestas, asking her to consider the Capital Region for any U.S. expansion. Vestas makes some onshore wind turbine components now in Colorado, although most of its manufacturing is done abroad.
Vestas officials could not immediately be reached for comment, although state lobbying records show the company’s representatives have met with the governor’s office to discuss “offshore wind energy opportunities” in the state.
Additionally, Siemens Gamesa is planning an offshore wind turbine blade factory in Virginia. That would be its first in the U.S.
Wind turbines have traditionally been made outside of the U.S. But states like New York have been requesting that companies that win leases for offshore wind farms off its shores locate manufacturing in the state as well.
Gov. Kathy Hochul has supported the state’s offshore wind program and the economic development opportunities it is providing to the state.
Schumer has secured tens of millions of dollars in federal funding for the Capital Region to support infrastructure and job training at the Port of Albany for the offshore wind turbine tower facility.
Albany is viewed as a prime location since the towers can be floated down the Hudson River on barges to a staging area in New York City for the offshore wind farms.
GE has used the Port of Albany to ship its steam turbines and generators overseas as well.
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