US Offshore wind industry announced to build first Jones Act compliant installation vessel

Monday, 28 August, 2017 - 16:30

Zentech Inc. (Texas) and Renewables Resources International (Virginia) just announced to build the first Jones Act compliant U.S. installation vessel. "This vessel will provide the now evolving U.S. Offshore Wind Industry with a much needed and cost competitive marine logistic solution,” stated Zentech in a press release. The U.S. Jones Act requires for all vessels that are transporting goods to and from U.S. ports, such as components for an offshore wind farm, to be U.S. built and operated. Zentech Incorporated is a marine engineering and naval architecture firm specializing in the offshore oil and gas and renewable energy industries.

For a growing offshore wind industry, the oil & gas industry can provide a large selection of vessels, except for an offshore wind installation jack-up vessel with capabilities to lift and install towers, blades and turbines which is currently not part of the U.S. fleet. For the very first U.S. offshore wind farm near Block Island to overcome this issue the five turbines were deployed using a foreign installation vessel, the Fred Olsen vessel from Norway, that never reached the U.S. ports and was jacked-up on site three miles North of Block Island. On its way to the East coast coming from Europe the vessel had picked up the GE turbines in France. Feeder barges from three different Rhode Island ports delivered the remaining components to the jacked-up vessel.

The next offshore wind project will be three times bigger in size and is projected to start as early as 2019. Zentech Inc. decided to upgrade an existing vessel from the gas and oil industry. “Converting a Jones Act compliant asset, aligned with the conclusions from the European offshore wind learning curve, is a reliable concept to mitigate the still marginal project pipeline while providing an operationally effective solution," states the press release. The new vessel will be a four-legged, self-propelled Dynamically-Positioned Level 2 (DP2) Jack-up Vessel. "The vessel is designed to navigate the New Bedford Hurricane Barrier and will carry and install in this configuration components for at least three complete 6-9 MW range wind turbines. The vessel's jacking system will be rated at a capacity of 16,000 tons." Andy Geissbuehler, managing partner at RRI, who announced the investment together with Zentech, also says that "this vessel conversion is another example of the important role the US Oil & Gas Industry will play in accelerating the US offshore wind industry."

Upgrading an existing vessel will be the most cost effective solution versus building a new vessel with a minimum investment of US-$ 300-350 Million. To accommodate a growing offshore wind industry in the U.S. approaching larger and taller turbines in a very fast speed, Harald Arndt, head of R&D at the Germany based Neptun Ship Design GmbH has designed such a wind turbine installation vessel (WTIV), with a crane capacity of 2000To@45m. “If the U.S. industry decides to build such a vessel, it will be able to serve not only the U.S. market but also the whole future global market,” said Arndt at the U.S. Offshore Wind Conference last May. “The U.S. should focus on highest efficiency, not just the minimum necessary,“ says Arndt. 

Harald Arndt also sees a tendency - similar to the Block Island logistics - for the future WTIV to receive delivery of all turbine parts straight from the factory. “Such logistics require perfect planning but will save costs, time and limit risks,” says Arndt. High complex wind turbine transportation vessels (WTTV) will be capable of self-loading and delivery from the manufacturing site straight to the installation vessel out in the ocean. Other imported turbine parts can be delivered to a collecting port, which also can be located river side without the need of a great crane infrastructure.

Andy Geissbuehler adds, "this U.S. built vessel will contribute to the revival of the nation's shipbuilding industry and port infrastructure." The Zentech vessel is planned to be delivered before 2019, timed in accordance with other projects that are lined up on the East coast.

Anja Limperis

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