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Caroline County steel fabricator will supply foundations for wind farm developer Ørsted

A Caroline County steel fabricator will supply $70 million in wind turbine foundations for projects that offshore wind farm developer Ørsted plans to develop in the ocean off Maryland and New Jersey, state and company officials announced Thursday.

Ørsted’s agreement with Crystal Steel Fabricators in Federalsburg will establish the state’s first offshore wind steel fabrication center. The manufacturer plans to expand its workforce by a third, hiring 50 additional welders, fitters, machine operators, painters and truck drivers.

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Workers will make steel components used to construct wind turbine foundations for all of Ørsted’s mid-Atlantic projects, which are designed to power at least 1.3 million homes with renewable energy.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan toured Crystal Steel’s plant Thursday, joining officials and workers of both companies for the announcement.

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“Ørsted is a cutting-edge company that has made it their mission to create a world that runs on green energy, and they are progressing toward that goal by their continued investment here in Maryland,” said the Republican governor, calling the potential economic benefits “an absolute game-changer.”

“Offshore wind presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the state of Maryland to grow and diversify our economy and our energy portfolio,” Hogan said.

Crystal Steel said the manufacturer’s work, to start this month, will support a long-term supply chain for an expanding offshore wind industry.

The administration of President Joe Biden announced what it called an “ambitious road map” Wednesday for developing more offshore wind energy production along the U.S. coasts with a goal of generating 30,000 megawatts of power by 2030.

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The work at Crystal Steel will supply at least three Ørsted projects, Skipjack Wind, a 120-megawatt offshore wind energy project under development off the coast of Ocean City as well as Ocean Wind 1 and Ocean Wind 2 in New Jersey. Skipjack Wind 1, which the company expects to complete by mid-2026, will produce enough electricity to power 40,000 homes in the region. It’s expected to generate $225 million in economic investment and create nearly 1,400 jobs statewide.

The Eastern Shore steelworkers will make large-scale steel components for the turbine foundations.

The components range in size from nine to 16 tons each and stand as high as 45 feet. Components will be used in the construction of wind turbine foundation boat landings, ladders, internal and exterior platforms, railings, grating and other items.

Final assembly of the parts will be done locally for each project, with the work for Skipjack Wind to be constructed at Ørsted’s wind staging center at Tradepoint Atlantic, a logistics hub on the former site of Bethlehem Steel in Sparrows Point in Baltimore County.

“Crystal Steel is fortunate to have developed a long-term relationship with Ørsted,” with both sharing a commitment to invest in the Eastern Shore and create jobs, said William Lo, president of Crystal Steel Fabricators, in an announcement.

The steel fabricator, founded in 1992, operates five locations and delivers steel to job sites along the East Coast.

Ørsted announced earlier this month that it plans to build an emissions-free operations and maintenance facility in West Ocean City. That $20 million facility on Harbor Road will serve the first phase of Skipjack Wind and employ up to 110 people in temporary and permanent jobs, including wind turbine maintenance technicians, engineers and operations personnel.

The Danish wind energy firm also is proposing a second phase of the Skipjack project, 20 miles off the coast of Ocean City in a federally designated Wind Energy Area. Skipjack Wind 2, presented in August to the Maryland Public Service Commission, would generate 760 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 250,000 homes on the Delmarva peninsula. The project would create 1,000 permanent jobs and include developing a new cable manufacturing plant in Sparrows Point.

The work at Crystal Steel does not hinge on Skipjack 2, which still requires approval from state regulators, Ørsted said.

In August, the other wind energy firm developing a project off Maryland’s coast, announced plans to bring steel production back to Sparrows Point for its project. US Wind, the Baltimore-based subsidiary of Italian renewable energy firm Renexia SpA, said it plans to assemble turbine components and start a company called Sparrows Point Steel on 90 acres at Tradepoint Atlantic, a 3,300-acre logistics center in Baltimore County.

Offshore wind steel fabrication jobs have been located overseas for decades but Ørsted envisions wind energy as a new 21st century American industry, David Hardy, CEO of Ørsted Offshore North America, said in Thursday’s announcement.

“As builder, owner, and operator of Skipjack Wind 1, we are deeply committed to investing in Maryland and the Eastern Shore for decades to come” Hardy said.

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, called Ørsted’s agreement with Crystal steel a win for the state, environment and economy.

“This project proves that transitioning to clean energy isn’t just good for the environment; it’s good for jobs — good-paying construction and other positions,” Cardin said in a statement.

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