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United States

US offshore wind’s first movers’ lessons for future development

Developers of early US offshore wind farms hope their experiences can help others as the sector prepares to grow

Having built an early pilot project, Dominion Energy learned more vessels will be needed for the US offshore wind sector
Having built an early pilot project, Dominion Energy learned more vessels will be needed for the US offshore wind sector

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The nascent US offshore wind industry can learn from “first movers” that have already had wind farms permitted or have commissioned pilot projects, according to speakers at the digital Clean Power 2021 (7-10 June).

The US currently has just 42MW of operational offshore wind capacity, according to Windpower Intelligence, the research and data division of Windpower Monthly.

However, it now has a national target of 30GW by 2030, and several states have set individual targets, or are in the process of doing so.

Hurdles cleared

The US’s first large-scale offshore wind farm is due to be Avangrid Renewables and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners’ 800MW Vineyard Wind 1 Vineyard Wind 1 (800MW) Offshoreoff Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, USA, North America Click to see full details project off the coast of Massachusetts.

Earlier this year, the US government gave the project the green light, following more than three years of federal review and public consultation on the wind farms’ environmental impact.

At the American Clean Power Association's 2021 conference, Lars Thaaning Pedersen, CEO of Vineyard Wind, said the “very long” process could be an educational one for the wider industry.

“We had to go through a number of firsts to get here, and we are happy we cleared those hurdles,” he said.

“We set the first project on a good course, but also set quite a few markers for how the next wave of the industry goes. Hopefully people can look back at the experience that we have had to the benefit of all of us.”

The developers reached out to local stakeholders – most notably the commercial fishing industry in New England – to help ease permitting of the project, Pedersen (above) noted. 

“We have been very conscious of our ‘first mover’ status, so we made agreements and cooperations for the first project that set the industry off on the right path,” he added.

“It hasn’t always been successful, but I feel we have moved the discussion forward.”

All the way through

Meanwhile, late last year Dominion Energy commissioned its 12MW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) - Pilot Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) - Pilot (12MW) Offshoreoff Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA, North America Click to see full details project off the coast of Virginia — the first offshore wind farm in federal, rather than state, waters.

Mark Mitchell (below), senior vice president of project construction at Dominion Energy said that it was a useful experience for industry players and government agencies to see a project through from start to finish, from development and permitting, through to construction and commissioning.

It will be especially useful for when the developer follows up with the 2640MW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) - Commercial Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) - Commercial (2640MW) Offshoreoff Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA, North America Click to see full details project, which is due online in 2026, he added.

Early on in the process for the 12MW pilot project, a shortage of installation vessels became obvious.

The developer has since ordered a offshore wind turbine installation vessel compliant with the Jones Act — which requires vessels operating in US waters to be US-flagged — from Seajacks. The vessel is currently under construction in Texas and is due for delivery in 2023. It will be used for the 2.6GW wind farm.

“We thought it would be a good idea for the project and also for the industry at large in the US,” Mitchell explained.

“We will see more vessels: SOVs (service operation vessels), CTVs (crew transfer vessels), and wind turbine installation vessels.”

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