In a significant shift influenced by climate change, the transformation of the once-largest steel plant into an offshore wind turbine factory in the United States marks a new era. The United States Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration allocated $47.4 million to develop the Baltimore County Offshore Wind Manufacturing Hub, which will repurpose the former Bethlehem Steel shipyard for this innovative venture.
This initiative, championed by US Congressman Kweisi Mfume and a coalition of lawmakers, focuses on rehabilitating the Sparrows Point Steel site for large freight acceptance and employing funds from the Port Infrastructure Development Program for environmental efforts.
The history of the Sparrow’s Point waterfront facility dates back to 1889 when the Maryland Steel Company commenced steel production. Over time, it evolved into the world’s largest steel mill, contributing to iconic structures like the Golden Gate Bridge and supporting wartime production.
However, changes in the steel industry, coupled with shifting technologies and ownership transitions, led to decreased utilization, eventually resulting in bankruptcy. The property, now owned by the United Steelworkers union, is in partnership with Renexia, an Italian renewable energy company, for this transformative project.
This initiative signifies the burgeoning interest in renewable energy across the US. The Department of Energy reports a substantial rise in wind component manufacturing facilities over the past two decades, with over 500 specialized manufacturing units currently operational nationwide.
The $150 million investment from US Wind, a Renexia-owned company, will establish a facility at Sparrows Point Steel dedicated to producing monopile foundations and steel components required for the MarWin and Momentum Wind projects.
These efforts aim to serve the entire US offshore wind market on the East Coast. Monopiles, the primary foundation for offshore wind turbines, will be manufactured up to 39 feet in diameter and 400 feet in length, consuming over 220,000,000 pounds of steel plate annually.
Beyond technological advancements, this project promises a resurgence in Maryland’s manufacturing industry, estimated to generate around 500 union jobs and a labor income totaling over $1 billion across two decades.
“Through both the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, we’re bringing manufacturing jobs back to the US and back to Maryland, and this investment will help make Baltimore a competitive manufacturing hub for offshore wind and a premier destination for clean energy growth,” said a statement.