VIDEO: Keel laid for first Jones Act Wind Turbine Installation Vessel

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Dominion Energy WITV is designed to handle current turbine technologies as well as next generation turbine sizes of 12 megawatt or larger

Richmond, Va., headquartered Dominion Energy reports that it has reached a major milestone—the keel laying—in the construction of the first Jones Act compliant offshore wind turbine installation vessel (WTIV), currently being constructed by Keppel AmFELS at its Brownsville, Texas, shipyard.

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 offshore wind turbine installation vessels is of strategic importance to the U.S. offshore wind market.

In a keel laying ceremony today, fabrications from the first steel, supplied domestically, were laid to form the first part of the keel—the bottom-most central steel structural beam on a vessel.

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. 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. It has accommodations for up to 119 people. The vessel 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.

$500 MILLION PROJECT COST

The overall project cost, inclusive of construction and commissioning and excluding financing costs, is estimated to be around $500 million. Financing for the vessel has been arranged through a lease financing agreement with leading global banks. Construction and financing costs will not impact Dominion Energy Virginia’s customers’ bills.

This effort represents a significant step in developing a domestic manufacturing supply chain to support the multi-gigawatt opportunity for zero-carbon electricity generation in U.S. waters. Dominion Energy 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 vessel is being built on the Gulf Coast and is expected to create nearly 700 direct construction jobs. Once complete, the vessel will be based out of Hampton Roads, Va., with a U.S. crew.

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 commercial project.

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.

Dominion Energy contracted with Keppel AmFELS, a wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary of Singapore’s Keppel Offshore & Marine Ltd, for the engineering, procurement and construction of the offshore wind turbine installation vessel. The vessel is designed by GustoMSC, a business unit within NOV.

Seajacks, a leader in the operation of self-propelled jack-up vessels that provide safe and efficient offshore wind turbine installations, will assist Dominion Energy with construction and operations oversight. Dominion Energy expects the vessel to operate continuously for several years through contracts with offshore wind projects in the U.S.

“This is a monumental step for the offshore wind industry in America,” said Robert Blue, Dominion Energy’s president and CEO. “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. This will better enable the offshore wind industry to bring clean, renewable energy to customers in the U.S.”

“Offshore wind is bringing clean energy and new jobs to America, and Virginia is leading the way,” said Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. “This new vessel will help propel the offshore wind supply chain, drive economic development in Hampton Roads, and grow the offshore wind workforce in our Commonwealth. We are thrilled to celebrate great news like this in what has been a challenging year.”

“Today marks a critical step forward in the development of the offshore wind industry in Virginia and across the East Coast,” said U.S. Sen. Mark Warner. “The construction of the first Jones Act compliant offshore wind turbine installation vessel serves as another vital link in the growing domestic manufacturing supply chain to support offshore wind energy development here in the U.S. This vessel will enable the timely construction of planned offshore wind development projects throughout the East Coast, including the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind commercial project.”

“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,” said Mohamed Sahlan, president of Keppel AmFELS. “Supported by our highly-skilled local workforce, state-of-the-art equipment and reliable suppliers across the U.S., we are confident of delivering a high-quality vessel to Dominion Energy safely, cost-effectively and on time.”

“NOV is proud to be part of this historic effort to harness offshore wind to power the U.S. electrical grid,” said Clay Williams, NOV chairman, president and chief executive officer. “We are pleased to be partnering with Dominion Energy, Seajacks, and Keppel AmFELS to develop the first jack-up vessel for the U.S. market purpose-built to install offshore wind turbines.”

“This next-generation turbine installation jack-up vessel is vital to the safe and cost-effective deployment of offshore wind energy in the United States,” said Blair Ainslie, CEO of Seajacks. “Seajacks currently operates a fleet of offshore installation jack-ups in Europe and Asia and is looking forward to developing the offshore wind supply chain in the United States with our partners. Seajacks is proud to be working alongside Dominion Energy on this historic project.”

The two turbine, 12-megawatt Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (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.

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