The Port of Long Beach has announced a bold plan to establish a 400-acre wind port called Pier Wind that could centralize the manufacture and staging of floating offshore wind turbines on the West Coast and provide a major infrastructural boost to California’s planned goal of building floating wind farms so as to generate 25 Gigawatts by 2045.

On May 9th the Port of Long Beach announced the following goals for Pier Wind: “The proposed Floating Offshore Wind Staging and Integration facility – known as Pier Wind – would allow for the assembly of offshore wind turbines standing as tall as the Eiffel Tower.”

The Port projects the following benefits to California’s offshore wind efforts:

  • Harness the powerful wind in deep waters in order to generate renewable energy at a lower cost while enhancing air quality by reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
  • Meet California’s goal of producing 25 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2045.
  • Contribute toward lowering the national cost of offshore wind power by 70% by 2035.
  • Place California and the United States at the forefront of floating offshore wind technology and development, the project would create jobs and economic opportunities for communities near the San Pedro Bay port complex.

Accompanying the announcement was a detailed report “PIERWIND PROJECT CONCEPT PHASE Final Conceptual Report” produced by the engineering firm Moffatt & Nichol. As background, the report explained that water depths off the Pacific Coast are “characterized by rapidly increasing water depths that exceed the feasible limits of traditional fixed offshore wind turbines. Thus, floating offshore wind technology is more suitable for this region. To minimize risk and ensure accurate assembly, floating offshore wind turbine systems require port facilities to fabricate the floating foundations, manufacture components, construct or assemble the turbine, and provide maintenance support.”

The study noted that “port infrastructure on the U.S. West Coast, including California, is not adequate to support the development of the offshore wind industry, and significant port investment is required to develop purpose-built offshore wind port facilities. This is because offshore wind components are large and require port facilities with significant laydown area and infrastructure with heavy loading capacities to assemble the turbine systems.”

To address this issue, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) performed a study to assess California ports and identify the quantity and size of required port facilities to meet California’s offshore wind planning goals: “The study indicated there are limited existing ports that could host staging and integration (S&I) sites due to the air height requirements needed for the fully assembled units. This type of facility would receive, stage, and store offshore wind components and assemble the floating turbine system, which is then towed out to the offshore wind area. The Port of Long Beach (POLB) has the potential to play a critical role in supporting the offshore wind industry to help meet the state and federal offshore wind deployment goals.”

Consequently, the Port of Long Beach (POLB) “is evaluating the opportunity to develop an approximately 400-acre terminal known as Pier Wind. This offshore wind terminal will be developed to have the flexibility to serve any of the offshore wind industry needs (i.e., staging and integration (S&I), foundation fabrication, component manufacturing, maintenance support, etc.). In addition, the terminal will meet the physical, regulatory, and environmental requirements to accommodate the largest floating offshore wind turbine generator (WTG) components and floating foundations being developed. This report documents the engineering decisions completed during the conceptual phase of the project.”

The Concept of the Pier Wind

Pier Wind is located within the Port of Long Beach in the Outer Harbor. The western edge of the project is on the border that separates the Port of Long Beach from the Port of Los Angeles: “Pier Wind is strategically located south (outside) of the Long Beach International Gateway Bridge resulting in no height limitations or air draft restrictions for offshore wind industry use. This is critical since the offshore wind turbines can be up to 1,100 feet tall.”

The concept phase of the Pier Wind will assess the feasibility of the project with the following goals and requirements in mind:

  • Complete conceptual engineering to identify the scope and cost of necessary improvements and to identify potential challenges or issues in the proposed project
  • Develop an overall project schedule and evaluate options to deliver the terminal in a cost effective and accelerated schedule in an environmentally and sustainable manner
  • Identify feasible project phasing options for early benefits and to balance funding and fill availability
  • Identify feasible business/finance model options
  • Develop strategies and project graphics to attract funding and developer interest
  • Complete the conceptual phase by April 2023 to position the project for state, federal, and private funding

Functional Requirements

The report provided functional aspects that shall be incorporated into the project:

1. Minimum water depth at the berth shall be -60 ft meaning lower low water (MLLW) in the berth pocket and -80 ft MLLW outside of the berth pocket.

2. To provide for the transfer of floating foundations from land to water, a sinking basin with minimum dimensions of 1,000 ft by 600 ft and maintained to a minimum depth of -100 ft MLLW will be provided between the main channel and the terminal site.

3. Wet storage for floating foundations and fully integrated turbine systems will be provided at Pier Wind. Depending on the offshore wind industry's needs, the wet storage area can provide pedestrian access and electrical service for maintaining and testing the turbine system prior to towing out.

4. Dredging equipment will conform with air quality requirements as defined during the Environmental Impact Report.

5. The facility “must be able to accept fill from less desirable regional sources (engineering strength, contamination, etc.) and consider phasing and construction approaches that can accommodate this material without impact to the project schedule.”

6. Based on input from Jacobson Pilot Service, a 2,200-diameter navigational turning basin shall be provided on the Main Channel between the Navy Mole and terminal.

7. The transportation corridor must be at least 225 ft wide to accommodate two rail lines, four vehicular lanes, and essential operation facilities (i.e., offices, warehouses, parking, electrical substations, refueling tanks, etc.). This shall also include a utility corridor for potable water, sewer, stormwater, electrical, fiber optic, telecom, etc.

8. The berth shall accommodate roll-on / roll-off (RO/RO) vessels with a maximum elevation of +18 ft MLLW for offloading components directly from a delivery vessel. The berth shall have adequate fendering and mooring points to accommodate this operation.

9. The north side of the terminal shall be the berthing area to provide wave protection. The north side of the terminal shall also accommodate RO/RO vessels.

10. The terminal site is to be designed for a minimum site elevation of +16.5 ft MLLW on the north side and +18.5 ft MLLW on the south side to accommodate the medium-high risk aversion of +4.3 ft of sea level rise.

11. The wharf must be designed for heavy lift crane operation (crawler and/or ring crane).

12. The wharf and uplands shall be designed to accommodate the design vessels and the heavy lifting, transport, and storage loading associated with both wind turbine generator (WTG) components and floating foundations [i.e., cranes and self-propelled modular transporters (SPMTs)]. Based on the anticipated site use, the design uniform lives loading criteria shall be 3,000 psf for the uplands and 6,000 psf on the wharf.

13. All areas accessible for crawler cranes and transporting WTG components and floating foundations shall be designed with a flexible pavement of well-graded dense grade aggregate of a minimum thickness of 3 ft on the uplands and 3 ft on the wharf.

14. The marine structures are not designed for vessel or barge impact, vehicular impact, blast loading, or other impact loads.

15. For delivery vessels, fenders shall be generally spaced at 50 ft, maximum, and bollards shall be generally spaced at 75 ft, maximum. This spacing requirement shall be used as guidance when laying out the fenders and bollards. However, it is recognized that in some instances the spacing will be exceeded, as needed, or require a different fender system to match structural or operational requirements (i.e., RO/RO vessels).

16. The site will be designed to prevent local settlement that would inhibit self-propelled modular transporter (SPMT) movement.

17. To mitigate long-term consolidation settlement during construction fill materials will be improved using wick drains and surcharge placement.

18. The terminal will be designed to minimize emissions by using electrified equipment, alternative fuels, and vessel shore power.

Basis of Operations

The Pier Wind terminal will be developed to have the flexibility to serve any of the offshore wind industry needs (i.e., staging and integration (S&I), foundation fabrication, component manufacturing, maintenance support, etc.). The primary anticipated activities are S&I and manufacturing, including foundation assembly. The high-level concept of operations for the site is as follows.

S&I sites, wind turbine generator (WTG), and floating foundation components including blades, nacelles, tower sections, and foundation elements “are imported to the berth via a delivery vessel. Two methods of transfer from the delivery vessel onto the wharf will be accommodated. The first method consists of using a vessel or wharf-based crane to lift the components from the vessel onto the wharf. The second method consists of a RO/RO operation. This method uses SPMTs to drive onto the vessel, onboard the components, and then transport the components off the vessel onto the wharf. In both methodologies, SPMTs are used to transport the component from the wharf to the upland storage area.”

The report notes, “This methodology is used extensively in the offshore wind industry due to its ability to handle and efficiently spread significant loads to achieve manageable applied loads on the structures and/or subgrade below. For foundation assembly sites, the terminal design will accommodate the fabrication of floating offshore wind turbine foundations on the uplands. This activity can also occur at an alternative site. If the foundation is fabricated at this facility a serial production line will likely be used where foundations are progressively constructed moving toward the wharf.”