Monopiles like the one in this rendering can be 39 feet in diameter and 400 feet long. They'll be manufactured at Sparrows Point Steel. Photo: US Wind

Offshore Wind Factory Brings Steel Back to Sparrows Point

For decades, Sparrows Point was the home of Bethlehem Steel—at its peak, the largest steel mill in the world, employing 30,000 workers.

When the steel industry modernized and moved overseas, the steel mill withered away. After a massive environmental cleanup and redevelopment, the site now thrives as Tradepoint Atlantic, home to a 3,300-acre global logistics center with access to deepwater berths, rails and highways.

Now, in a full circle moment, a steel facility is returning to the area that used to be Bethlehem Steel.

Sparrows Point Steel, a partnership between Baltimore-based US Wind, Inc. and Haizea Wind Group Management S.L., will be Maryland’s first permanent offshore wind factory, manufacturing steel components like monopiles and towers.

Noting the “special historical relevance” of the site, US Wind says the United Steelworkers will support fabrication operations there.

US Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski says it will be one of the premier offshore wind facilities in the world. “Sitting on nearly 100 acres of waterfront in Baltimore County, Sparrows Point Steel is poised to become the best offshore wind heavy logistics and fabrication yard on the East Coast.”

Haizea Wind Group, a Spanish company, has significant experience in designing, building, and operating manufacturing facilities for monopile foundations and towers for offshore wind farms in other parts of the world, where the offshore wind industry is further developed. 

US Wind and Haizaea say Sparrows Point Steel has the potential to be one of the largest offshore wind staging ports in the United States. US Wind’s MarWin and Momentum Wind projects (off the coast of Ocean City, Md.) will be among the first to procure components from Sparrows Point Steel.  

The Sparrows Point Steel announcement comes just as the International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum was held in Baltimore. At the forum,Maryland Governor Wes Moore announced a state initiative to quadruple the amount of energy produced by offshore wind—from about 2 gigawatts to 8.5 gigawatts of power, enough to power nearly three million homes. The state says it’s working to establish new lease areas and strengthen the supply chain.

The establishment of Sparrows Point Steel will help with that. Moore’s office says another wind developer, Orsted, has committed to using Tradepoint Atlantic for its components’ assembly, too. Between Orsted and US Wind/Haizea, Moore says 15,000 jobs will be created.

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the booming offshore wind industry, however; Congressman Andy Harris (R-1) called Moore’s initiative “expensive and harmful”, indicating funding the offshore wind industry will raise residents’ energy bills and questioning the safety of offshore wind development for whales.

“In addition to the added cost of his new proposal to Marylanders’ monthly electric bills, there is now bipartisan opposition going forward with even the current plans to industrialize the offshore areas with 900-foot-tall windmills that may be causing the death and stranding of dozens of whales and marine mammals off the Atlantic Coast.”

There has been an alarming uptick in whale strandings along the mid-Atlantic so far this year, but NOAA Fisheries mantains no deaths have been attributable to offshore wind activity.

-Meg Walburn Viviano