Galveston Wharves is helping fuel the state’s booming wind energy industry by moving wind turbine sections through the port. In turn, this clean-energy industry is generating port revenue and third-party jobs for stevedores, ship line handlers, ship pilots, railway workers, truck drivers and more.
The huge white cylinders and blades you see on our waterfront are imported from Spain, South Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia and headed to wind farms in Texas and Oklahoma.
Each turbine is made up of four tower sections, three blades, one hub and one nacelle, which contains the turbine’s energy-generating components.
Picking up steam
In the last 20 years, wind energy has taken off in the U.S., with Texas leading the nation. Currently, Texas has a total installed capacity of 24,899 megawatts, enough to power more than 6 million homes and triple the capacity of second-place Iowa. Wind energy provides almost a quarter of our state’s electricity needs.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, planned wind projects will add 10.9 gigawatts this year, with Texas, Iowa, and Illinois home to more than half of these additions.
This directly benefits our community because Galveston is one of only four Texas ports that can accommodate wind energy equipment. We’ve been moving wind turbine parts through our port for a decade.
Wind energy equals Galveston jobs
As the industry has grown, so has the amount of wind turbine cargo we move. In 2018, we moved 1,666 pieces. This year it could be more than 2,000.
Currently, wind energy cargo is our fifth highest, behind grain, liquid bulk, fertilizer and roll-on/roll-off. We collect revenue based on the number of ships docked and the amount of cargo moved, as well as leased space for outdoor storage of turbine parts. Between one and four ships carrying wind turbines visit our port each week.
Galveston Wharves and its partners, including BNSF Railway, Union Pacific and the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), coordinate to move these giant pieces of equipment off of ships and onto specially designed rail cars and trucks.
Highly trained ILA stevedores use cranes to move the equipment. Blades are transported by truck, while the other parts are moved by truck and rail.
Galveston Wharves, the Texas Department of Transportation and the city of Galveston are working together to plan improvements on Harborside, particularly at the Interstate 45 intersection, to better accommodate trucks carrying these blades, which are more than 200 feet long.
More wind energy forecast
The U.S. Department of Energy projects that Texas will have a total land-based wind capacity of more than 57 gigawatts by 2050.
How the port continues to benefit depends on a number of factors including:
- Adequate laydown cargo space
- Maintained docks and water depths
- Competition from other ports
- Continued offer of U.S. tax credits for imports
- Capacity to handle and transport larger turbine parts
Investing in port infrastructure will help us continue to attract more wind energy business and associated good-paying local jobs.