Following the interview with Karl Humberson, Director Generation Construction at Dominion Energy, Commercial Director Jan-Mark Meeuwisse and Sales Manager Karel Wagner of GustoMSC explain how the US can scale up more rapidly by making use of European knowledge and experience.
Kick Starting US Offshore Wind
The new US administration has set an ambitious target for the expansion of offshore wind energy. It aims to expand offshore wind energy to 30GW by 2030 and to have 110GW in place by 2050.
What will this mean for the existing ports, production facilities, installation and maintenance infrastructure in the supply chain?
The US offshore wind energy supply chain will have to expand quickly and, to start off, it will have to team up with European players to kick-start the process and meet the required timeline. For the first projects, the US already relies on the EU supply chain to install foundations and turbines. It will take time to build up a new industry and supply chain best suited to the local conditions in the US. Over the past years, we have seen that investments are starting to be made in the infrastructure, supply chain and assets required for the long-term development of US offshore wind energy. Examples are: the development of EEW’s foundation manufacturing facility in Paulsboro, NJ; the development of the staging port at New London, CT, and the construction of Dominion Energy’s installation jack-up vessel “Charybdis”. Many of these developments and investments rely strongly on US – EU partnerships building on European offshore wind expertise and local US content.
What role does the Jones Act play in the development of a robust supply chain?
The Jones Act requires vessels that transport merchandise, including offshore wind turbine components between US ports to be US built, flagged, crewed and owned. The specialized vessels required to develop offshore wind energy along the US East Coast currently don’t exist in the US. The ability to use vessels currently being used in the Gulf of Mexico offshore Oil & Gas industry is very limited. The required vessels include the full range from the smaller Crew Transport Vessels (CTVs), SOVs (Service Operating Vessels), Cable laying vessels, Scour protection vessels, to the high Capex Installation vessels and jack-ups. In the short term, foreign vessels will be required to be used within the restrictions of the Jones Act, but long-term dedicated fit-for-purpose US built and Jones Act compliant vessels will be required to efficiently develop the US offshore wind industry. This puts a strong demand on the US shipbuilding and operating industry in order to build and operate these vessels.
In comparison to Europe with 41,000 miles of coastline, the US coastline with a total length of 95,500 miles has an immense potential for the offshore wind industry.
How likely is it that the US offshore wind industry will take off across the entire US coastline?
The current focus in the US is on the development of bottom fixed wind energy along the US East Coast. The Northeast has a very good wind resource in relatively shallow water conditions and is located close to population centers in need of renewable energy. In addition, states in the Northeast see offshore wind energy as a promising new industry from which they wish to reap the economic benefits. This is an ideal combination which is currently fueling the development of the US offshore wind industry. At the same time, the individual states along the East Coast are competing with each other to attract the desired portions of the supply chain and associated economic activity to their own state. Compromises between states will be required to develop an efficient infrastructure and supply chain for the long term.
Dynamics on the US South (Gulf of Mexico) and West Coasts are different and will therefore follow different trajectories. Developments on the US West Coast are promising, but focused on floating wind technology due to higher water depths and are currently still somewhat behind in relation to developments along the East Coast.
What environmental (seabed, water depth, currents, wind loads) challenges have to be addressed?
Environmental conditions in the Northeast of the US are challenging and harsh with relatively deep water depth but GustoMSC does not envisage any unsolvable issues as we are used to operating worldwide and have vast experience in this offshore wind industry since 2002. We have been involved in US projects, like Cape Wind since 2008. Over time, we have come to understand the local specifics and to know what is required. Apart from operating in the offshore environment, the development of offshore wind energy is a logistic challenge. In Europe, we made many mistakes when trying different approaches to the development of offshore wind energy. We have learned from these mistakes and we have evolved into a mature and efficient industry.
What other challenges (legislation, investment, technical capabilities) have to be overcome to scale up the operation nationwide?
The limited shipyard capacity capable of building these large self-propelled DP2 jack-up crane vessels is a major challenge. If you want a Jones Act compliant WTIV jack-up in 2025, you will need to have a shipbuilding contract in place soon. These are high Capex, complex and technically challenging vessels to build, and they require shipyards capable of handling these dimensions. Also, they must have the necessary skills, capacity, and experience. Keppel AmFels in Brownsville is one of the few yards that has the skill sets required to build jack-up rigs and DP-2 vessels under one roof.
In addition to the Jones Act, the US Coastguard has regulations and it is important to take these into account right at the beginning of the design process and jacking system engineering. Educating and training personnel is very important! We are talking about new jobs with new tasks and responsibilities. The installation works are of a repetitive nature, these are delicate heavy components, at very high heights and in an offshore environment. There is no industry, onshore or offshore, lifting components of over 1,000 metric tons (1,100st) at such high heights of over 150 meters (>490ft) and in a repetitive way. Skyscrapers are built piece by piece. The new crews need to learn the new standards, work safely and operate from a safe, stable and solid GustoMSC designed platform.
Will the characteristics of the US compared to Europe lead to differences in the development of the offshore wind industry?
Two key differences between Europe and the US are the Jones Act and the port infrastructure. In Europe, the North Sea offshore Oil & Gas industry existed prior to the offshore wind industry and therefore infrastructure, assets and experience were already largely available. In Europe, the growth of the offshore wind industry was in line with the experience that was being built up. This port infrastructure is missing on the Northeast Coast and, contrary to Europe, the US is starting the roll-out of offshore wind energy with massive 12+ MW turbines as opposed to the 2 to 3 MW turbines initially being installed in Europe. The combination of these factors presents a huge challenge and the industry has been trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together over the past years and to come up with viable solutions for the transport and installation of the first US offshore wind farms. GustoMSC has been very active over the years in supporting the market with concepts and solutions. Examples are, of course, the designs for large Jones Act compliant installation jack-ups such as the NG-8000X, NG-14000X and NG-16000X but also alternatives such as Feeder and Maintenance jack-ups. In addition, we have explored floating feeder alternatives such as the Steady Top Feeder Barge concept which we have evolved into a dedicated Steady Top Feeder Vessel (STFV) over the past year. The vessel is an integrated design comprising a proven skidding and proven 3D motion compensation platform on a DP2 vessel supporting the safe lift-off of wind turbine components from a floating feeder vessel to an in-field installation jack-up. By using motion compensated floating feeder vessels more ports on the East Coast can be used that are not accessible by large jack-ups. The development and construction of these vessels has the potential of transforming the US offshore wind industry to adapt logistical solutions and associated assets to best suit the local requirements.
Can we foresee a development – as we have in Northwest Europe – where the cost per MW of offshore wind energy can compete with more traditional sources?
At GustoMSC, we look closely at our portion of the LCoE that we can influence. We also look beyond our expertise, as an integrated jack-up vessel designer and equipment supplier. In Europe, we started to design the first dedicated WTI-JUVs in 2008, achieving that one jack-up vessel is able to install one turbine set in one day. This was a game changer by installing at a faster pace, reducing the installation costs and significantly lowering our portion of the LCoE. Dominion Energy will be benefitting from this expertise and by doing so they have tackled one of the major risks.
The concessions of 9,000 MW / approx. 700 wind turbines which have currently been granted and of which Dominion has obtained several are a good start. However, offshore wind energy is still in the pioneering phase in the USA. Collaboration with experienced partners in these projects appears necessary to learn and catch up.
Jan-Mark and Karel at Kinderdijk a world heritage site consisting of nineteen windmills showing the impressive contribution the Dutch made to technology to keep water under control.
What insights can you share with us about this cooperation?
By securing the installation jack-up, Dominion has secured the safe and on-time construction of their project. By teaming up with Seajacks and GustoMSC, Dominion has overcome one of the major offshore wind hurdles. Moreover, Dominion has ensured a timely delivery ready for the installation works by working together with Keppel AmFels. They have the right installation vessel and assistance from the beginning to the end of their installation and maintenance work.
What part did NOV play in paving the way and securing contracts?
Some of us remember the Cape Wind project, in which I have been involved since 2003 and GustoMSC has been active in since 2008. At first, presenting at the early AWEA Offshore Wind conferences and advising solutions to US players. The 6th Seajacks project started well before GustoMSC was acquired by NOV. Nonetheless, we are very proud to be part of this world-class group and are happy that we can contribute to NOV’s success in the renewable energy sector. The US offshore wind energy market is evolving into a robust renewable industry requiring robust transport and installation solutions and we are ready to show you the way!
Commercial Director GustoMSC
Jan-Mark Meeuwisse is the global Commercial Director for Fixed Offshore Wind installation of GustoMSC. He joined GustoMSC in 2008 and has been a major player in the development of the new generation offshore wind installation jack-ups for A2SEA, Fred Olsen Windcarrier, DEME, Jack-Up Barge, Seajacks, GMS, Dominion Energy, Penta Ocean and Shimizu Corp.
Jan-Mark has a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and has over 30 years’ experience in the construction industry and more than 20 years in the offshore wind energy, in particular in marine and piling. He is able to bring together a contractor’s knowledge and the more than 50 years of design experience of GustoMSC jack-ups. His motto has not changed “keep it simple and safe”. As offshore wind logistics are already a challenging task and safety comes first and starts while working from a safe, solid and stable platform.
Sales Manager GustoMSC
Karel Wagner is a sales manager for GustoMSC with a focus on the Offshore Wind Industry in general and the US market in particular. For the past 12 years, he has been involved in the design and engineering of mobile offshore units including various wind turbine installation jack-ups which have been built for the European offshore wind market.
Karel worked on many of these projects in the capacity of Engineer and Project Manager and holds a master’s degree in Naval Architecture from Delft University of Technology. Karel spent 2017-2019 in the GustoMSC Houston office exploring and supporting the US offshore wind market in its early stages. He recently returned to the GustoMSC office in the Netherlands to continue his role from there supporting US and European clients in developing their offshore wind installation solutions.