This week’s auction for wind farm development rights covering more than 480,000 acres off the coasts of New Jersey and New York is the latest indications that U.S. offshore wind farms will be ramping up in the next few years.
Some wire and cable manufacturers will supply the high-voltage undersea cables linking the wind turbines and offshore substations several miles to the onshore electric utility network. But the big play for many electrical manufacturers, distributors, contractors and engineering firms will be the development of onshore electrical infrastructure for the staging areas at U.S. ports where crews will ferry equipment out to the wind farms; facilities to build or assemble foundations and towers for the turbines; training facilities for workers in the wind industry; and shipyards building the CTVs (crew transfer vehicles) that will take workers to the wind farms, which will typically be at least 9 miles to 30 miles offshore.
While some small-scale wind farms are operating or are being built off the coasts of New England and Virginia (see chart at the bottom of this post), right now the bulk of the development activity is being planned off the coasts of New Jersey and New York. According to a press release from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the areas covered by the New York Bight leases in the Feb. 23 auction could eventually provide 5.6 GW (gigawatts) to 7 GW of offshore wind energy — enough to power nearly 2 million homes. According to a report at www.offshorewind.biz, this auction attracted 25 bidders, including big names in the offshore wind business like BP, Equinor and Shell.
In recent weeks, there’s been a steady flow of news about development activity in this niche with a direct impact on the electrical wholesaling industry.
For example, Southwire recently announced that it would manufacture 32 miles of cable for the Vineyard Wind project off Cape Cod, and the New Jersey Wind Port, a $300-million to $400-million project south of Philadelphia on Delaware Bay is moving quickly through the planning process. It will service the 1,100-MW facility that will be built by Ørsted off of Atlantic City, NJ.
New York will also see quite a bit of onshore development related to the Empire Wind, Beacon Wind and Sunrise Wind projects to be built off Long Island’s coast. These projects will include a tower manufacturing facility on the banks of the Hudson River in Albany, NY; a staging and assembly yard at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Brooklyn, NY; operations/maintenance facility in Port Jefferson/East Setauket, NY; and training facilities at the SUNY Stony Brook and SUNY Farmingdale state college campuses.
Several U.S. shipyards are also seeing new orders for the vessels bringing workers and supplies to the offshore wind farms. For example, Rhode Island’s Blount Boats and Senesco Marine received order for a total of five CTVs, according to a report in the Rhode Island Business Journal, and Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO) is working with Ørsted, Eversource and several other wind and maritime players to build SOVs (Service Operations Vessels) at its shipyards in Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana.