US sets target for floating offshore wind farms expansion

The US has published a plan to accelerate development of next-generation floating offshore wind farms by slashing the cost of the technology by 70% and setting a goal for it to power 5m US homes by 2035.

The multi-agency floating offshore wind initiative is called the Floating Offshore Wind Shot and it will see the administration advance lease areas in deep waters.

The Biden administration’s announcement on September 15th saw White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy claim that efforts to support the technology’s advancement would position the US “to lead the world on floating offshore wind and bring offshore wind jobs to more parts of our country, including the West Coast”.

The US has lagged behind Europe in the introduction of offshore wind power generation and is now aggressively trying to catch up by becoming a leader in floating offshore wind power.

Globally only 0.1 GW of floating offshore wind has been deployed to date, compared with more than 50 GW of fixed-bottom offshore wind.

The US hopes by 2035 to have 15 gigawatts of floating offshore wind capacity along its coastlines. The administration’s other target is to permit 30 gigawatts of total offshore wind by 2030.

The US Interior Department will hold a lease auction for areas off the coast of California later this year. The Department of Energy will commit nearly $50m to fund research, development and demonstration projects for floating offshore wind. Part of the aim of this research will be to reduce the cost to $45 per megawatt-hour by 2035 – a 70% fall.

A White House fact sheet noted that conventional offshore wind turbines can be secured directly to the sea floor in shallow waters near the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. However, deep-water areas that require floating platforms will be home to two-thirds of America’s offshore wind energy potential.

Meanwhile, Construction of the first commercial offshore wind farm in France has been successfully completed ahead of schedule, despite what were described as “challenging seabed conditions”. The Saint-Nazaire Offshore Wind Farm is a relatively small project with a capacity of 480 MW, but is being billed as a step contributing to achieving the target of 40% renewable energy by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050 in France.

The project – a partnership between Enbridge and EDF Renouvelables, is located a short distance off the Loire-Atlantique coast. The first phase of construction began in 2019.

Installation of the turbines was contracted to Jan De Nul’s Offshore Jack-Up Installation Vessel Vole Au Vent (IMO 9655315). The majority of the Saint-Nazaire turbines needed to be installed on an uneven rocky seabed. As of September 18th the vessel was at the port of Ostend, Belgium

Since the self-elevating jack-up vessel Vole au vent needs a stable seabed to safely jack on, some additional rock fragmenting operations were required to prepare the seabed. During the summer of 2021Jan De Nul’s ocean-going Cutter Suction Dredger Fernão de Magalhães (IMO 9466697) performed preparatory work. The dredger fragmented the seabed, using a rotating cutter head to smooth the seabed which then allowed the Vole au vent to perform jacking activities.

Fully operational, the capacity of 480 MW will be equivalent to 20% of the Loire-Atlantique region’s annual electricity consumption.

2013-built, Luxembourg-flagged, 18,781 gt Vole Au Vent is owned by Sofidra SA of Capellen, Luxembourg, and managed by Dredging & Maritime Management of the same address. It is entered with Gard AS on behalf of Jan De Nul Group (Sofidra SA).

2011-built, Luxembourg-flagged, 8,015 gt Fernão de Magalhães is owned by Magalhaes SA care of manager Codralux SA of capellen, Luxembourg. ISM manager is Dredging & Maritime Management of Capellen, Luxembourg. As of September 18th the vessel was ni Klaipeda dredge area, Lithuania.