Gov. Jay Inslee paid a visit to the Port of Vancouver Tuesday afternoon to tour one of the terminals where a shipment of wind turbine blades is in the process of being unloaded and trucked out to a wind energy project near Wasco, Ore.
The port has positioned itself as a major import destination for wind energy components, bringing in components for more than 2,700 wind turbines last year, which contributed to a record-breaking financial year despite the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The year 2020 was a remarkable year for the port in terms of moving wind energy, and we are thrilled to showcase the port’s capabilities to Governor Inslee,” port CEO Julianna Marler said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work with our partners, customers and ILWU to keep cargo moving across port docks and bring economic activity to our region.”
The port enjoys several advantages in the competition for wind energy imports, including an inland location along the Columbia River, large spaces to store the blades while they’re trucked out one by one and relatively straightforward and unobstructed access to the freeway system, allowing the oversize components to be quickly trucked out through the Columbia River Gorge.
Inslee went on a 15-minute walking tour past several rows of stacked 74-meter turbine blades, accompanied by Marler, port Commissioner Eric LaBrant and Cager Clabaugh, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 4.
The group also stopped to chat with mechanics next to the port’s two Liebherr mobile cranes, which are used in tandem to lift the blades off of ships and onto truck beds one at a time.
The turbines were manufactured by Vestas and were part of a total shipment of 123 blades and 41 tower bases, according to a press release from the port. The tower bases have already arrived, along with 69 of the blades, with another 54 scheduled for delivery on subsequent vessels.
At a press conference following the tour, Inslee touted the skilled jobs involved in transporting and installing wind energy components and stressed the importance of wind energy and other renewable sources as a means to combat climate change.
“These jobs are going to continue to grow, and I like the fact that our kids and our grandkids are going to have a future of employment in these burgeoning industries,” he said.
He briefly mentioned the ongoing effort to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge, and said the new bridge would help move large components like the blades along the I-5 corridor.
In response to a question about last week’s announcement of the cancellation of a proposed methanol plant at the Port of Kalama, Inslee stated that the decision was made by the state Department of Ecology and was based on an assessment that the plant’s emissions would have been too high to satisfy Washington state law.
He also reiterated his intention to see Washington fully reopen on June 30 — or sooner if the state hits its 70 percent vaccination target early — but said the remaining few weeks of pandemic restrictions are necessary to save lives.