Among the challenges facing the country’s nascent offshore wind industry is the lack of a US-made turbine installation ship. That’s because of a century-old federal law requiring that goods shipped between American ports be moved on vessels built in the United States.
But that’s about to change. New England utility Eversource Energy and Danish energy company Ørsted on Tuesday announced they reached an agreement to charter the first American-made turbine installation vessel, for two adjacent wind farms that the two companies are developing between Long Island, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard.
The $500 million vessel, being built by a consortium led by Dominion Energy in a Texas shipyard, will enable Eversource and Ørsted to be the first wind farm developers to use a ship that is qualified under the Jones Act to install offshore turbines. The ship, which can carry up to six turbines at one time, is expected to be ready by the end of 2023.
Joe Nolan, Eversource’s CEO, said the ship, dubbed the Charybdis after the sea monster from Greek mythology, will enable the crews on the Revolution Wind and Sunrise Wind projects to be far more efficient than if they had to use qualified feeder barges to shuttle components between a port and a foreign-made installation vessel at the construction site.
That slower approach is how Eversource and Ørsted will build their considerably smaller South Fork project off Long Island, because the new ship won’t be done in time. It’s also how work crews will build the Vineyard Wind project south of Martha’s Vineyard. That development team still hopes to start work by the end of the year. (Also, that project is using the New Bedford port, and the Charybdis will be too wide to fit through the 150-foot shipping gate in New Bedford’s hurricane barrier.)
“Our competitors will be forced to use a feeder barge,” Nolan said. “That’s why this is a game-changer for us.”
After South Fork is completed by the end of 2023, Eversource and Ørsted plan to build Revolution, to provide electricity to Connecticut and Rhode Island, and then will build Sunrise, to serve New York state. Taken together, the projects will generate about 1,600 megawatts of electricity, or enough power for nearly 1 million homes. The Eversource-Ørsted joint venture plans to base the 472-foot-long Charybdis out of New London for the duration of the Revolution and Sunrise projects; the ship’s home port will be Hampton Roads, Va.
As many as 1,000 people will be employed at Keppel AmFELS, the shipbuilder, at the peak of the construction process. Hundreds more will work on the two wind farms, with about 100 permanent positions expected in New London.
David Hardy, chief executive of Ørsted North America, said the joint venture has been in discussions with Dominion about contracting with the ship for a few years. Talks were far along when Dominion committed last year to building it.
“They get a lot of credit for pulling the trigger on it before they had a deal done with us, but they had most of the deal done with us,” said Hardy, who is based in Ørsted’s Boston office. “All along, they were anticipating this contract. But now, with the confidence we have in the federal permitting process, we were able to commit to the vessel.”