Though well developed in European markets, the offshore wind sector is still nascent in the USA. Expansion is, however, starting to accelerate. With this in mind, Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO), an offshore marine transportation provider, has commenced a charter agreement with wind farm operator Ørsted and New England based energy supplier Eversource for the provision of the first-ever US-flagged Jones Act compliant Service Operations Vessel (SOV). (The Jones Act restricts the transportation of cargo between US ports to US-built, owned, registered and crewed vessels.)
ECO says it will engineer, construct and operate the vessel, which will form an integral part of the operation and maintenance of the Revolution Wind, South Fork Wind and Sunrise Wind offshore wind farms in the northeast USA.
The vessel will be used during the operation and maintenance (O&M) phases of the wind farm projects, serving as an at-sea base of operations to accommodate and transfer technicians, tools and parts to and from the individual wind turbine generators. The company notes that the vessel is purpose-designed with a focus on enhanced maneuverability, extended offshore endurance and reduced emissions.
“The offshore wind energy industry is generally well developed and understood, particularly in Europe where an enormous industry has developed over decades, but this industry is in an initial stage in the USA,” explained Gary Chouest, president of Edison Chouest Offshore. “There is an unprecedented opportunity, with 12 offshore wind projects planned, an additional 10 offshore wind leases signed, and another 6 wind leases awaiting award. In aggregate, there is a pipeline of well over 25,000MW of power to be produced by more than 1,700 wind turbines, across 13 states, and in various stages of development that will require an incredible array of vessels, resources, knowledge, and capital commitment to install, operate and repair.”
The vessel will be over 80m long and capable of housing 60 passengers. In keeping with the environmental goals of the offshore wind industry, the vessel will operate on diesel-electric power that meets EPA Tier 4 emission standards and will feature proprietary ECO Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A daughter craft, with associated launch and recovery system and hydraulic height-compensating landing platform, will also be installed for infield turbine repair operations.