‘New dawn’ for US offshore wind sector hailed by Air & Sea Analytics


Wind farm at dusk and calm sea 3D render

A “new dawn” for the US offshore wind sector has been hailed by aviation consultancy Air & Sea Analytics, after work began last month on the foundations of the first two commercial-scale projects, South Fork and Vineyard. The Vineyard Wind facility will see 62 turbines installed, each rated at 13MW, giving the wind farm an 806MW capacity. South Fork will feature 12 turbines with total capacity of 132MW, said Air & Sea Analytics.

“The USA is now starting a process of building out offshore wind at time when the industry has scaled up turbine sizes and windfarm sizes substantially,” according to Steve Robertson, founder and principal, Air & Sea Analytics. “We expect intense activity and ramp-up on installed capacity during this decade. US government targets of 30GW by 2030 appear ambitious but there is a project pipeline to back it up with over 36GW of project activity currently planned.”

Marine conditions and scale of the projects should favour rotorcraft transfer, with at least 24 helicopters active in offshore wind in the next 10 years, Robertson added.

The two projects will involve heavy lift installation vessels with Boskalis’s Bokalift 2 currently operating at South Fork whilst DEME’s Orion is working at Vineyard. There will also be a myriad of other supply vessels, heavy transportation vessels and crew transfer vessels (CTVs). The initiatives will also see the first dedicated offshore wind crew transfer helicopters in the US.

“A view of the relevant (offshore wind only) vessel and helicopter activity over 24 hours last week shows the first Heliservice aircraft actively employed through the day on both the Vinyard and South Fork projects,” said Robertson on June 27th.

Before the South Fork and Vineyard wind farms, only two small projects had been built. The Block Island project came online in 2017, with a capacity of 30MW, and was followed in 2020 by a 12 MW (2 turbines) demonstration project. All three projects are located off the US north east coast near Martha’s Vineyard.

The two latest projects are being operated by German specialists Heliservice from Quonset and Martha’s Vineyard and are provided by lessor LCI under a long-term lease. “The benefits of the helicopter are not just the obvious increase in speed (bearing in mind vessels face speed restrictions in this area due to whale and other marine activity) but also a dramatic reduction in CO2 emissions (a CTV service typically emits 3x the volume of CO2 vs an AW169),” said Robertson.

Industry data show that helicopter transfer results in far fewer recordable safety incidents, with vessel operations being the leading cause of such incidents in offshore wind, he added. Read the Air & Sea Analytics’ report here.

Meanwhile, last week operating lessor LCI confirmed the delivery of the first two dedicated helicopters to serve the offshore wind power sector.  The leases, which are expected to contribute to the rapid growth of a $12bn/year market, cover two Leonardo AW169 helicopters. (Photo credit: Wind farm at dusk and calm sea, 3D render, courtesy of Air & Sea Analytics).