Offshore wind partners Ørsted and Eversource announced on Tuesday they had reached a deal with Dominion Energy for use of a first-of-its-kind wind turbine installation vessel in New London during construction of two planned offshore wind farms in the Northeast.
The Charybdis will be the nation’s first Jones Act-qualified vessel for use by the offshore wind industry. The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, known widely as the Jones Act, is a federal statute that requires all vessels shipping goods between two U.S. ports be American-built, owned and flagged.
The $500 million, 472-foot-long vessel is being constructed in Brownsville, Texas, and is expected to appear on New London’s waterfront by the end of 2023 to start work on transportation and installation of turbines in conjunction with Ørsted and Eversource’s Revolution Wind and Sunrise Wind projects. Revolution Wind is a planned 704-megawatt wind farm 15 miles off the Rhode Island coast expected to provide 304 megawatts to Connecticut. Sunrise Wind is a proposed 880 MW wind farm under development in New York.
Ørsted and Eversource have joined with the state and Connecticut Port Authority to fund the $235 million overhaul of State Pier for use as a staging area for work on the wind farms.
Eversource President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Nolan, in an interview with The Day, called Charybdis a major milestone that will help speed construction of the wind farms. The vessel can transport and install up to six wind turbines — with an estimated diameter of 726 feet each — to the lease areas. The alternative is use of smaller U.S.-built feeder barges to move the turbines to European installation vessels.
The Charybdis, which is 184 feet wide, will feature a crane with capacity for 2,200 tons and boom length of 426 feet.
Charybdis will operate as part of Dominion Energy’s contracted assets and once completed will be homeported in Hampton Roads, Va. After working with Ørsted and Eversource, the vessel will be used to support Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, which is located off the coast of Virginia Beach and expected to be completed in 2026. The farm will feature an estimated 188 turbines and produce 2.6 gigawatts when completed.
Nolan said New London and Virginia are some of the few places where vessels as large as Charybdis can operate, since most ports have obstacles like bridges and hurricane barriers. New London does not.
“New London looks forward to the arrival of the country’s first offshore wind installation vessel to our historic, deep water port,” New London Mayor Michael Passero said in a statement. “This major green energy milestone means local jobs and community investment in our maritime economy, as New London redevelops its port facility and emerges as a premier offshore wind hub for the Northeast.”
Charybdis is being built at the global marine shipbuilder firm Keppel AmFELS’s shipyard using domestically sourced steel. At peak construction, 1,000 U.S. workers will be employed on this project. The vessel is designed to handle current turbine technologies as well as next-generation turbine sizes of 12 megawatts or larger. It also will be capable of the installation of foundations for turbines. Revolution Wind and Sunrise Wind turbine sizes are still to be determined but in their permitting applications, Revolution Wind calls for up to 12 megawatts and Sunrise Wind calls for up to 15 megawatts.
“Offshore wind is critical to America’s clean-energy future and the Charybdis plays a vital role in reaching the Biden Administration’s ambitious goal of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind production by 2030,” Bob Blue, Dominion Energy’s chair, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Ørsted and Eversource on the construction of Revolution Wind and Sunrise Wind to continue to grow the offshore wind industry in the U.S.”
“A Jones Act-qualified installation vessel is a game-changer for the development of the U.S. offshore wind industry,” said David Hardy, chief executive officer of Ørsted Offshore North America. “This investment will enable us to unlock the economic benefits of offshore wind, not just for the Northeast, but for the Southern states, as well. We’re proud to partner with Dominion Energy and Eversource on this historic milestone.”
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Connecticut’s U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, all applauded the news.
“We are excited about the transformation of State Pier into a state-of-the-art facility and the arrival of Dominion’s historic vessel in Connecticut to support Ørsted and Eversource’s offshore wind project work, which includes bringing the state its first offshore wind farm in Revolution Wind,” Lamont said in a statement. “All of this activity assists in advancing our state’s clean energy economy and helps position New London as a hub for the industry, delivering jobs and economic development to the city and Connecticut overall.”
“The Biden Administration is prepared to make long-term investments to ensure America is a dominant and permanent force in the global clean energy economy, and eastern Connecticut has a major part to play for us to be successful,” Courtney said in a statement. “The uptick in offshore wind activity has already brought business and job opportunities to our communities, local suppliers, and other industries through federal grants and public and private investment, and today’s announcement is a signal of all the continued growth and opportunity on the horizon.”