Shipbuilder Keppel AmFELS has laid the keel for the first ever Jones Act compliant offshore wind turbine installation vessel (WTIV) at its shipyard in Brownsville, Texas, marking a key milestone for the development of the U.S. offshore wind industry.
With several gigawatts of offshore wind capacity to be installed along the U.S. East Coast in the next decade, access to Jones Act compliant WTIVs is of strategic importance to the U.S. offshore wind market. Currently no such vessel exists.
Dominion Energy contracted with Keppel AmFELS, a wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary of Keppel Offshore & Marine Ltd, for the engineering, procurement and construction of the vessel, which is designed by NOV business unit GustoMSC.
"This is a monumental step for the offshore wind industry in America," said Robert M. Blue, Dominion Energy's president and chief executive officer. "Dominion Energy is proud to be leading a consortium of respected industry participants in the construction of the first Jones Act compliant offshore wind turbine installation vessel, which will provide significant American jobs, and provide a reliable, home-grown installation solution with the capacity to handle the next generation of large-scale, highly-efficient turbine technologies."
The new WTIV currently under construction will be the first of its kind built in the U.S. (Image: Dominion Energy)
Mohamed Sahlan, president of Keppel AmFELS, said, "We are pleased to be able to build the largest wind turbine installation vessel in the U.S. for Dominion Energy and support the growing offshore wind industry. Keppel AmFELS has a solid track record and capabilities in a wide range of offshore vessels and we are also able to leverage the experience of our parent company, Keppel O&M, in offshore renewables to provide a compelling construction solution for this milestone project."
The $600 million WTIV, to be named Charybdis, will be based out of Hampton Roads, Va. and is expected to be available to support U.S. offshore wind turbine installations by the end of 2023. Seajacks will assist Dominion Energy with construction and operations oversight.
The vessel's hull has a length of 472 feet, a width of 184 feet and a depth of 38 feet, making it one of the biggest vessels of its kind in the world. The vessel's hull and infrastructure will utilize more than 14,000 tons of domestic steel, with nearly 10,000 tons sourced from Alabama and West Virginia suppliers. Vessel construction is expected to create 700 direct jobs.
The vessel will have accommodations for up to 119 people and is designed to handle current turbine technologies as well as next generation turbine sizes of 12 megawatt or larger and will also be capable of the installation of foundations for turbines and other heavy lifts. In August 2020, Dominion Energy announced the selection of the global firm Huisman to fabricate the crane to be used on the offshore wind turbine installation vessel. The main crane has a boom length of 426 feet and an expected lifting capacity of 2,200 tons.
Once constructed, the vessel will be available for charter hire, including by Dominion Energy Virginia, subject to the approval of the Virginia State Corporation Commission, in connection with the installation of its Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) commercial project. Dominion Energy said it expects the vessel to be fully utilized in support of the installation of over 5 gigawatts of planned offshore wind generation off the East Coast of the U.S. through 2027 and beyond.
The two turbine, 12-megawatt CVOW pilot project, located 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach, is currently energized and operational while awaiting the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's (BOEM) final technical review. Ocean surveys and geotechnical work are also underway for the 2,640-megawatt full scale CVOW commercial project, which will be located in a lease area adjacent to the pilot project. These surveys will support the development of the project's construction and operations plan to be submitted to BOEM this month.
According to a report by The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the U.S. Department of Energy found the U.S. could develop a total of 86 gigawatts of offshore wind projects by 2050. Project developers expect 14 offshore wind projects totaling 9,112 megawatts to be operational by 2026. States are driving strong demand for offshore wind energy and have established over 29,100 megawatts of offshore wind procurement targets as of September 2020.