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Offshore Support Journal

Pieces falling into place for US offshore wind

Tue 14 May 2019 by John Snyder

Pieces falling into place for US offshore wind
Four waterjets will provide the new CTVs with redundancy and manoeuvrability (image: BMT)

Offshore wind developer orders two CTVs to support US Atlantic coast windfarms

To support its offshore wind projects in Virginia and the US northeast, renewable energy developer Ørsted is partnering with WindServe Marine, LLC to construct two US-flag, purpose-built crew transfer vessels (CTVs).

Each catamaran-hulled CTV will have a length overall of 19.8 m, beam of 7 m, draught of 1.35 m, deadweight capacity of 15 tonnes and passenger capacity for 20 turbine technicians and four crew. Propulsion will be supplied by four waterjets, providing each CTV with a maximum speed of 28 knots.

WindServe Marine, part of New York-headquartered The Reinauer Group, will operate the vessels, the first of which is under construction at US Workboats in Hubert, North Carolina. When delivered in Q1 2020, the high-speed, aluminium catamaran will serve Ørsted’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, which will be commissioned in 2022.

The second CTV will be built by WindServe affiliate shipyard Senesco Marine in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, specifically for Ørsted’s and New England utility Eversource’s Revolution Wind project located between Block Island, Rhode Island and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Senesco Marine will begin construction of the CTV in late 2020.

These will be the first CTVs built to class in the US. The first CTV built in the US in 2015 to support Ørsted’s Block Island Wind Farm, Atlantic Pioneer, was constructed by Blount Boats to USCG Subchapter L and Subchapter I certifications, with guidance from class society DNV GL. Built for Atlantic Wind Transfers, Atlantic Pioneer is based on a design by South Boats of Isle of Wight, with an overall length of 21 m, beam of 7.3 m and draught of 1.24 m. Propulsion for Atlantic Pioneer is supplied by two HamiltonJet waterjets that are driven by two high-speed MAN diesel engines, giving the vessel a 30-knot service speed.

These new CTVs will be built to DNV GL class and based on a design by UK-based naval architect BMT Group. CTVs in Europe have been built to class.

“The sensitivities around the North Atlantic right whales have been at the forefront of our thought process during the design phase,” says a spokesperson for BMT’s specialised ship design business in Southampton, UK. The North Atlantic right whale is an endangered species, with only about 400 remaining. Developers have signed agreements to protect the endangered whales, including limiting the times of the year for construction activities when whales are most likely in the area.

This also meant that the CTVs would not be designed with open propellers and had to be highly manoeuverable. “This has required an innovative approach, particularly when designing the machinery space for systems normally found on larger windfarm vessels,” says BMT. “The quad jet installation will offer superb manoeuvrability, excellent bollard push and an order of magnitude more redundancy than comparable vessels.”

US cabotage laws, collectively known as the Jones Act, require the CTVs to be built, manned and owned in the US.

“The sensitivities around the North Atlantic right whales have been at the forefront of our thought process during the design phase”

“Choosing WindServe to build our CTV at Senesco will provide locally built vessels and a local operator for the domestic offshore wind industry,” said Ørsted North America president and chief executive Thomas Brostrøm. “WindServe Marine’s experience with Jones Act vessel operations and full-service shipyard fabrication, coupled with their dedication to the future of green energy, make them a great partner as we expand operations along the East Coast.”

DNV GL maritime Americas regional business development manager Sergio Garcia told Offshore Support Journal that while the “pieces are falling into place” for US offshore wind, a number of challenges remain for suppliers as the market develops. “My main concern is a pipeline of projects that will sustain the industry long term,” says Mr Garcia. “There’s competition among states to have everything built and sourced locally. This is not a practical nor efficient solution,” he says.

Legislators in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Virginia have viewed offshore wind projects as major job creators, prioritising local content. This would require duplicate supply chains to be developed in states up and down the Atlantic coast. “There are not enough projects to sustain that,” says Mr Garcia. “States should be willing to work together creating maritime clusters to support projects.”

Service operation vessels next?

To further the development of US offshore wind, Mr Garcia says that purpose-built service operations vessels (SOVs) will also need to be constructed at a US shipyard. “We could see a contract placed before the end of this year,” he says. SOVs are typically dynamic positioning class 2 capable, with large storage capacity above and below deck, with accommodations and motion-compensated gangways to allow maintenance engineers to transfer safely between the vessel and wind turbine.

“States should be willing to work together creating maritime clusters to support projects”

The contract for a purpose-built SOV would have to be placed soon. Revolution Wind, which will produce 400 MW of power for Rhode Island and 200 MW of power for Connecticut, is expected to be commissioned in 2023. There are also a number of US flag OSVs that could be suitable for conversion to support an offshore windfarm as an SOV.

Earlier this year, Eversource paid approximately US$225M for a 50% interest in Ørsted’s Revolution Wind and South Fork Wind Farm projects, as well as a 666 km2 tract off the coasts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. South Fork Wind Farm is a site off of Long Island, New York that could be developed into a 130 MW windfarm. Commissioning would be in 2022.

A collaboration between Ørsted and utility Dominion Energy, Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind will have two 6 MW wind turbines in operation by 2022.

Largest offshore windfarm taking shape

Other offshore wind projects in Massachusetts are also taking shape, which could lead to demand for additional CTVs. Vineyard Wind, LLC, owned 50% by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) and 50% by Avangrid Renewables, LLC, is currently in the permitting and financing process for the first large-scale offshore wind energy project in the US.

In May, the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB), an independent state board responsible for review of proposed large energy facilities, approved the construction and operation of electric transmission cables that will deliver 800 MW of renewable offshore wind energy to the regional power grid from the proposed 84 wind turbines 23 km off the coast.

The approval keeps Vineyard Wind on schedule to begin onshore construction in 2019 and become operational by 2021.

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