Offshore wind: investing in ships and creating jobs for the American maritime industry

October 15, 2021

Sponsored by the American Clean Power Association (ACP)

The growth of offshore wind in the United States presents huge economic opportunities for the marine industry and ships made in America.

Achieving President Joe Biden’s goal of deploying 30,000 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind power by 2030 will employ hundreds of ships and help bring American sailors back to work in a new renewable energy industry. We are already starting to see new investment in vessels and workforce training programs, but much more will need to be done to move from the 42 megawatts (MW) (seven turbines) of offshore wind we have currently at 30,000 MW (approx. 2,000 wind turbines) in nine years.

Many other countries also have ambitious offshore wind goals to achieve in similar timeframes to the United States, all needing ships at the same time. The United Kingdom plans to increase its offshore wind capacity to 40,000 MW by 2030, while the European Union plans to reach 60,000 MW by 2030. Korea’s deployment target South is 12,000 MW by 2030, and Japan is aiming to have 9,000 MW by 2030. Some of the ships needed to achieve these ambitions are in high demand with limited supply, giving the United States the tremendous opportunity to invest in new ships in US shipyards to meet demand.

Several investments in US-flagged vessels are already underway. Dominion Energy is leading a consortium to invest $500 million in the first US-flagged offshore wind installation vessel in Brownsville, Texas, which will be operational by the end of 2023. Orsted and Eversource have contracted Edison Chouest in Louisiana to build the first American-flagged ship. Service operations vessel. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock is developing the first U.S.-flagged offshore wind drop pipe vessel for underwater rock installation that will be operational no earlier than the first quarter of 2024. These three vessels are a significant start, but each project Offshore Wind will use at least 27 vessels in all stages of the project, including seabed survey work, component transfer, cable burial, crew transfer and turbine installation. There are currently 15 active rental areas (typically with one project per lease) and more will soon be available in the New York Bay, California, North Carolina and other areas. More investment in vessels is needed to be able to build offshore wind projects simultaneously in the United States and around the world.

Crew Transfer Vessels, which are used to transport wind farm technicians and other personnel to wind farms, are one of 27 vessels needed to build an offshore wind project.

In addition to ships, the United States needs skilled labor and more American sailors to build offshore wind turbines. The United States Congress and the Maritime Administration are concerned about the decline in the number of sailors, as the number of qualified sailors has reached historic lows. The offshore wind industry can help piece together these numbers for sailors, but will need specialist offshore training to ensure safe and speedy construction. Europe’s and the UK’s 20 years of experience building over 24,000 MW of offshore wind can help with this transition, along with new training programs put in place by offshore wind developers, community colleges and other academic institutions, labor unions and shipping companies.

In February, Atlantic Shores signed a job training agreement with six New Jersey unions to begin training union members to be ready for construction that will hopefully begin in 2024. The Massachusetts Maritime Academy and Crowley Maritime have announced a new workforce development program to train New England workers. offshore wind industry in August 2021. However, to meet the President’s goal of deploying 30,000 MW by 2030, more workforce training is needed. The American Clean Power Association (ACP) supports “The Offshore Wind Jobs and Opportunity Act” introduced by U.S. Representative Bill Keating (D-MA-9), which would help further support the training of the offshore wind workforce creating a grant program to stimulate investment in offshore wind workforce training programs.

Offshore wind is already driving investment in US-flag ships and workforce training programs, but to meet the president’s goal of 30,000 MW of offshore wind deployment by 2030, investment additional are required. The offshore wind industry looks forward to continuing to work with the US maritime industry and government to help build new ships and employ US sailors to build a renewable energy economy.

For more information, please visit cleanpower.org.