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9 January 2020

Siemens to make early splash in US offshore supply chain

By Andries Wantenaar

Siemens Gamesa has been selected as the preferred turbine supplier for Dominion Energy’s 2,640 MW offshore wind farm in the waters off the US state of Virginia.

The project will be located 27 miles off the coast on 112,800 acres which Dominion Energy secured by lease from the Bureau of Ocean Management in 2013. Construction will come in three 880 MW phases – one in 2024, one in 2025, and one in 2026. Surveying will begin this year, with a construction and operations plan to be submitted by the end of the year.

The size of the project exceeds Virginia’s former 2,500 MW target for offshore wind and makes it a leading state in the USA’s nascent offshore wind industry.

It is likely but not certain that Siemens Gamesa’s SWT-6.0-154 turbine model will be used, since it was chosen for Orsted and Dominion Energy’s 12 MW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Demonstration Project. That small trial project began in July 2019, will finish in 2020 and is located adjacent to the main 2640 MW project. These two projects are Dominion Energy’s first offshore wind projects. The company does have a 301.3 MW wind farm in Indiana which was commissioned in 2009, but BP Wind Energy has been operator and co-owner since 2008.

Offshore wind is only just emerging in the USA. The country’s first and only offshore wind farm, Orsted’s 30 MW Block Island Wind Farm, was commissioned in 2016. Recent technological advancements have made offshore wind turbines larger and more reliable, with recent models from the past few years far outperforming older ones. Several large offshore wind farms are set to come online in the USA in the 2020s, such as the 816 MW Empire off New York, the 1000 MW Morro Bay off California, the 1100 Ocean Wind off New Jersey, the 880 MW Sunrise off New York, the 704 MW Revolution Wind off Connecticut, and the 800 MW Vineyard Wind off Massachusetts.

The US is likely to have 13.4 GW total offshore wind by 2030. The East Coast conditions are favorable like those of Europe, whereas offshore wind on the West Coast will have to use floating technology because of the rapid drop-off of the seafloor away from the coast. In the Gulf of Mexico hurricanes and other extreme weather would be an obstacle, while projects in the Great Lakes would need to address the issue of ice.

Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam’s 2020 budget includes $733 million spending for clean energy and the environment. Included in that is the establishment of Virginia’s Office for Offshore wind, and a $40 million upgrade for the Portsmouth Marine Terminal. Virginia is located in the middle of the east coast, and of the east coast states its ports are the second busiest by tonnage and the third busiest by volume. Hampton Roads suffers little maritime congestion and the Port of Virginia was recently granted approval for a dredging project to take its channels down to a depth of 55 feet, enough for bidirectional travel of Ultra Large Containerships. This could result in Virginia making a significant contribution to a north-eastern supply chain, or it could even become the center of a new south-eastern supply chain.

The supply chain for offshore wind will take a while to reach its full potential, partly due to the Jones Act, which requires vessels operating in the US to be built, owned and operated by US players.