The first large-scale offshore wind farm in the United States has selected a U.S.-based arm of Belgian marine services provider DEME to transport and install wind turbine generators for the project using a combination of Jones Act-qualified feeder ships and a foreign-flagged installation vessel.
Located 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Vineyard Wind 1 is slated to have a capacity of 800 megawatts, enough renewable energy to power 400,000 homes.
The project’s developer Vineyard Wind is a joint venture between Avangrid Renewables, a subsidiary of Avangrid, Inc. (NYSE: AGR), and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP). The company announced Friday that it has selected Boston-based DEME Offshore US LLC for the wind turbine installation.
DEME Offshore US will source a foreign-flagged wind turbine installation vessel (WTIV) from DEME Offshore, a member of the DEME Group, for the installation work.
Seattle-based FOSS Maritime will provide Jones Act compliant feeder vessels – operated by “union labor” – which will be used to transport wind turbines from the port of New Bedford to the specialized jack-up WTIV.
“We’re very excited to make this announcement today not only because it’s an important step in the development of our first project but also because of the impact it will have on the US workforce,” said Vineyard Wind CEO, Lars T. Pedersen. “The offshore wind industry has tremendous potential to create good paying jobs and investment opportunities while also reducing carbon pollution. By working with companies like DEME Offshore US LLC and FOSS Maritime, we can ensure that US labor is gaining from the experience of well-established operators, so that the industry can take proper root and grow a fully American workforce.”
Currently there are no Jones Act-compliant offshore wind turbine installation vessels in the United States, however the first is now under construction at Keppel AmFELS Brownsville, Texas for Dominion Energy, which is developing the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, a 2.6 GW offshore wind farm located off Virginia Beach, Virginia. The vessel is expected to be delivered by the end of 2023.
Vineyard Wind is expected to reach financial close on the project in the second half of 2021 and begin Vineyard Wind 1 operations in 2023.
“This announcement is great news for our region, and in particular for the hard-working men and women in the maritime trades,” said Gerard Dhooge, of the Seafarers International Union, and President of the Boston & New England Maritime Trades Council, AFL-CIO. “We have a once in a generation opportunity to create a new industry that will help middle class families and those trying to make it to the middle class. With partners like Vineyard Wind, DEME Offshore US and Foss Maritime partnering with organized labor, we can and will create a more prosperous future for people in the New Bedford region and throughout Massachusetts.”
Although recent Customs and Border Protection rulings have been in favor of upholding the Jones Act’s role in the development of offshore wind projects off the nation’s coasts, the rulings do not prohibit all foreign-flagged vessels from participating in renewable energy activities on the U.S. outer continental shelf. Experts say projects will need vessels from all permissible sources (including U.S. coastwise qualified and non-U.S. coastwise qualified vessels) in order to achieve the level of ambition set out in the Biden Administration’s offshore wind goal of 30GW by 2030.
A Government Accountability Office report in December warned that the U.S. currently lacks the specialized Jones Act-compliant wind turbine installation vessels required to meet to the anticipated demand from the burgeoning sector. As a solution, the report offered a scenario where a foreign-flag WTIV would install the turbines with components carried to the site from U.S. ports by Jones Act-compliant feeder vessels. Even in this scenario, however, the GAO indicated the U.S. may still require bigger feeder vessels considering the increasing size of offshore wind turbine components. An example of this scenario is illustrated below:
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