Flurry of US offshore vessel deals prepares market for huge turbines

Vessel suppliers and wind installation experts are collaborating to build new vessels and convert existing assets to bring rising turbine capacities to the booming U.S. offshore wind market, offshore experts told New Energy Update.

Some 28 U.S. offshore wind projects totaling 23.7 GW were planned or under development by mid-2017, with most near-term projects planned in the North Atlantic region, figures from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) show.

The U.S. federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has awarded 13 commercial wind energy leases off the Atlantic coast and last month it launched a lease sale proposal for two offshore wind sites offshore Massachusetts. BOEM also recently called for information on nominations to develop wind farms in New York State waters and launched an assessment of Atlantic coast waters for potential future offshore wind lease areas.

Last month, Florida-based Aeolus Energy Group announced it plans to build a U.S.-flagged vessel fleet to serve the offshore wind sector, expecting to generate 4,000 jobs in the next couple of years.

“We are confident that offshore wind at scale has finally arrived in the U.S.,” Elia Golfin, CEO of Aeolus Energy, told New Energy Update.

Aeolus will make “a considerable billion dollar” investment, Golfin said. The company plans to build jack-up vessels capable of installing 10 to 12 MW turbines, as well as cable ships to install medium- and high-voltage marine cables, service operations vessels to provide providing large-scale accommodation at sea, a fleet of crew transfer assets of vessels and helicopters, and port facilities in Massachusetts and Maryland.

The company will also invest in training facilities.

“During the construction season for offshore wind, we have a 24-hour work cycle. Staffing all of those jobs around the clock for months on end with qualified Americans is a significant challenge,” Golfin said.

Aeolus plans to have its first vessels ready for operation between the end of 2021 and early 2022.

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