Proponents of offshore wind power in the US remain bullish about the sector’s prospects, particularly with the avowedly ‘green energy’-conscious Biden administration now at the helm. In January, the incumbent president signed an executive order directing the Department of the Interior to call a halt to new oil and gas leasing, both on federal public lands and in offshore waters. While hardly fantastic news for domestic oil and gas companies, still reeling from the fallout of the previous decade’s oil price plunge, it could spell a shot in the arm for offshore renewable energy production.
However, the US offshore wind farm sector experienced something of a backlash in January, when Maine governor Janet Mills proposed a 10-year moratorium on wind farm development in state waters, responding to concerns raised by Maine’s commercial fishing sector. Although too early to predict an outcome, Maine could prove the testing ground for further challenges to wind farm development, should existing fishing, tourism and marine communities rally against the offshore wind arrays in other states.
Still, orders for relevant support vessels are picking up pace. For example, Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. (GLDD) recently contracted Ulstein Design & Solutions to design what will reportedly be the first US-flagged, dedicated subsea rock installation vessel (pictured), using an inclined fallpipe system to install protective layers of rock at offshore wind turbine foundations. It's understood that the newbuild will measure approximately 100m in length and feature a “large and strong aft deck area".
Ko Stroo, Ulstein’s lead naval architect and project manager, says: “At the start of the design, we applied our newly developed ‘Blended Design’ method…this resulted in significant gains in economic performance, at the same time reducing fuel consumption and emissions, by optimising vessel main dimensions, speed and DP capability”.
Meanwhile, Finnish tech giant Wärtsilä has designed a Jones Act-compliant, 76m multipurpose service operation vessel (MPSOV) for the US market – and particularly for the US East Coast, dubbed ‘the Saudi Arabia of wind energy’. The MPSOV will accommodate up to 60 crew and turbine technicians in 55 single and five state cabins – the designs of which “took into consideration the need for crew to maintain a safe distance from one another in logistics and workflows during situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic", comments Blake Jackson, sales engineer at Wärtsilä’s New Builds division.
The vessel will feature a double-decked cargo space for lifting equipment, palletised/containerised cargo and parts. Cargo will be stored in the dedicated upper deck. The design also incorporates two boat landings, creating ‘safe-passage zones’ for technicians transferring to and from the CTVs.
Key ‘green’ features of the forthcoming vessel include: a hybrid powertrain, with a containerised, battery energy storage system; and compatibility with shore-charging cold iron systems. “The design also includes space for the integration of potential future powerplant and fuel technologies, such as hydrogen fuel cells,” says Wärtsilä.