An abandoned shipyard and steel mill in Baltimore County could become one of the largest sources of renewable energy on the East Coast if all goes according to official plans. Citing a need to compete for new jobs wherever possible, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has expressed an interest in transforming the derelict steelmaking site of Sparrows Point into a major player in the burgeoning offshore wind industry. Having submitted the appropriate grant paperwork to federal authorities, his long-awaited plan of redeveloping Sparrows Point into the renewable energy hub of the East Coast may finally be coming to fruition.
The steel from Sparrows Point Steel Mill was used in the Golden Gate Bridge and countless WWII battleships, but its use had finally come to an end in 2012 after being officially abandoned by RG Steel. Kamenetz, however, who has had his eyes set on the 15-acre plot of land ever since, sees new implications for the derelict mill. Instead of producing steel, Kamenetz hopes to reequip the plant so that it can produce and manufacture equipment and accessories for wind turbine farms throughout the entire country. As many as 900 permanent employment opportunities, along with over 1 thousand temporary construction jobs, would go into effect, his plan states.
The county’s plan to retrofit Sparrows Point has already attracted the interest of a major European investor. US Wind is a Baltimore-based corporation with Italian ties who aims to operate a major wind farm near Ocean City by the year 2020. Although they are currently in the process of applying for the many federal and state levels of approval to make this happen, US Wind is currently looking at Sparrows Point to produce, manufacture, and ship the majority of its wind turbine equipment in the years to come. The question is, will Sparrows Point be able to deliver?
The Sparrows Point Partnership, established by Baltimore County in 2012 to identify the area’s strengths and weaknesses for offshore wind power, says “yes”. The committee identified a surrounding infrastructure that is ideal for manufacturing and shipping clean energy equipment all over the country: Sparrows Point is near two major railroads and has a direct route to the Beltway and I-95, along with 6 miles of waterway passages. The same routes that made shipping steel throughout the country possible means that shipping and manufacturing clean accessories to is a definitely possibility as well.
The next step is to rebuild damaged piers and bulkheads at the abandoned shipyard, which is adjacent to the former Sparrows Point Steel Mill. Baltimore County officials have filed for a $26 million federal grant that would ease the financial burdens associated with these plans. With the shipyard functional, the facility would be able to send wind turbine parts by the boatload.
Kamenetz and his team are also eagerly awaiting to hear who will be named the official winners of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, a program led by the Department of Transportation that gives away a total of $500 million to worthy causes. The official winners will be announced sometime over this summer.
Aside from building turbine farms, Sparrows Point could also produce limited amounts of clean energy of its own. Kamenetz has plans for solar and hydroelectric power operations, and plans for landfill gas as well. Landfill gas is a collection of natural gases collected from microorganisms that reside within landfills. The majority of the landfill gas is methane, and the remainder is comprised mostly of carbon dioxide. This type of gas is far cheaper than natural gas, and a competitive alternative energy source that could make Maryland very wealthy.
Baltimore County has seen many jobs disappear with the closing of the Sparrows Point Steel Mill. Kamenetz, however, hopes to stimulate the local economy by creating a permanent workforce in the fledging air turbine industry. Under his guidance, the legacy of Sparrows Point being a great employer of the community may be able to continue anew.