Albany eyeing ‘qualifications’ for $200M port plan

Harbor patrol: The ports in Brooklyn's Red Hook sectrion should see some of the $200 million Albany is floating for port-infrastructure improvements related to the offshore-wind industry.

Hard to port!

No, don’t make a quick left turn – but if you’re a waterfront-based enterprise focused on port operations and related markets, you’ll want to turn your attention to Albany’s latest Request for Qualifications.

With the offshore-wind industry really starting to howl, marine-support and other waterfront operations will become critical components of the statewide economy – particularly on Long Island, where offshore-wind infrastructure figures to rise fast.

To that end, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the Empire State Development Corp. and the New York Department of Transportation have issued a Request for Qualifications seeking early proposals from port operators and other market participants – essentially, any businesses interested in upgrading and investing in New York’s ports, particularly as it relates to the burgeoning offshore-wind industry.

By inviting companies into this pre-qualifying round, Albany is taking the first steps to “inform future competitive solicitation” of a scheduled $200 million state fund for port-infrastructure projects, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

The $200 million is a component of the governor’s Green New Deal plan, which among other environmental goals looks to develop 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind-generated electricity by 2035.

Joe Martens: Maximizing development, jobs.

Specialized port facilities “are essential to the success of the fledgling offshore wind industry,” according to New York Offshore Wind Alliance Director Joe Martens, who’s leading the alliance’s efforts to promote the development of responsible offshore-wind power in state waters – specifically, Atlantic Ocean waters off the Long Island shore.

“NYOWA and its member organizations applaud New York State for initiating a process that will lead to strategic port investments and infrastructure improvements that will maximize in-state jobs and economic development and make New York the offshore wind capital of the [nation],” Martens said in a statement.

New York is “uniquely positioned to be the epicenter of this exciting new industry in the United States,” agreed NYSERDA President and CEO Alicia Barton, who sees the Request for Qualifications as a key to unlocking similar improvements at other seaboard sites.

“[The RFQ will] support this growing industry while helping us reach economies of scale faster, develop a domestic supply chain more quickly and efficiently, and utilize ports and support developments all along the East Coast,” Barton said.

The RFQ is actually the first step of a two-phase process. Only proposals pre-qualified through Step 1 will be eligible for the competitive public-private investment round, which is slated to starting doling out that $200 million in 2020.

Eligible companies must identify at least one specific port facility; describe their current level of site control or ability to obtain site control; and present a viable plan for upgrading port capacity and/or operations.

To help potential applicants better understand the application process, NYSERDA has scheduled an Oct. 11 webinar covering deadlines, requirements and other application details. Participants are encouraged to submit questions in advance; more information is available on the webinar registration page.

Empire State Development Corp. Acting Commissioner and President Eric Gertler, also CEO-designate of the ESDC, called the two-step vetting process essential to Cuomo’s offshore-wind plans, which are projected to ultimately create 1,600 statewide jobs and generate some $3.2 billion in annual economic activity.

“Providing the proper infrastructure needed to advance Gov. Cuomo’s nation-leading offshore wind program will ensure that New York State will lead the way toward a clean energy future,” Gertler said in a statement.