Along the Atlantic coast, near New York and New Jersey, a stretch of ocean that is 2.5 times larger than New York has just been leased by the US government to six energy companies. These developers have one goal: to turn 488,000 acres of water into offshore wind farms to supply the two countries with renewable energy.

The Office of Ocean Energy Management announced the sale on February 23, at the end of 64 rounds of auction, for the area known as New York Bate. This is the largest maritime area in the United States ever offered at auction, worth $ 4.37 billion. The gigantic price of leasing has been scattered in the news, but money, however, is only a small part of the story. A more complex engineering challenge is ahead.

Building a number of wind turbines, several hundred feet high, miles from shore, is a major undertaking. Bight is expected to produce 5.6 to 7 gigawatts – enough power for more than 1.9 million homes – which directs the United States to the Biden administration’s national goal of generating 30 gigawatts of wind by 2030. This plan known as 30 of 30means building 2,100 wind turbines and foundations, laying more than 6,800 miles of cable and building several highly specialized ships to get the job done, according to National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

[Related: Minimizing offshore wind’s impact on nature is tricky, but not impossible]

Meanwhile, the offshore wind industry is investing millions of dollars in an internal supply chain that includes factories, port modernization, vessels and labor training, according to report of the American Clean Power National Trade Association.

There are still long ways to go. “The offshore wind supply chain in the United States is in its infancy,” said Brandon W. Burke, managing consultant at Ramboll, a Danish firm that advises offshore wind developers. “It’s certainly evolving faster, with increased compliance between federal and state governments – but the reality is that there is a lot of work to be done.”

Where to build a massive offshore wind farm

There are currently two wind farm projects in US federal waters: Block Island Wind Park, which serves Rhode Island cities and generates 30 megawatts, and Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Pilot Project, which serves Virginia Beach and generates 12 megawatts.

Like these smaller projects, Bight is close to the coast and close to cities with high levels of electricity demand. He shares two other key characteristics. First, there are nearby ports that can provide the production needed to build wind farm structures. And second, the area’s transmission network can handle energy injections. What’s more, New York and New Jersey are setting ambitious renewable energy targets of 9 gigawatts and 7.5 gigawatts by 2035, respectively, making Bight an attractive option.


The farm will lie on the wide and slightly sloping outer continental shelf of the Atlantic Ocean. Here the water is relatively shallow, so wind turbines can be fixed to the ocean floor. Most fixed-bottom wind turbines use steel tubes or gratings inserted into the seabed, according to Burke. The blades are then mounted on these solid bases. There are also floating bottom farms that are anchored to the bottom of the sea with chains. They can be used in deeper waters such as the west coast of the Pacific Ocean, where wind farms are proposed near California, Oregon and Washington.

Due to the large size and height, the construction of the base and components of the turbine requires a lot of attention. A blade can be up to 351 feet long or more than 124 baseball bats placed from end to end. These extremely long turbine components are transported at sea after being built or assembled in a port to minimize time spent in the water.

Delivery of turbines in pieces

For Bight, everything from high coastline to three nautical miles is a state jurisdiction, which means New York and New Jersey can independently develop the supply chains they need to build an offshore wind farm, Burke said.

A fleet of about 27 ships for an offshore wind project is needed to get these parts out of the water. This can vary depending on the distance to the shore and how many turbines there are, says Claire Reacher, director of federal offshore wind at American Clean Power. These vessels range from seabed preparation vessels to cable boats to service operating vessels – also known as floating vessels because they remain afloat after construction.

The limited number of wind turbine vessels (WTIVs) means there is a particularly tight spot in the United States for new projects, Burke said. Last year, vessel by name Charybdis was put into operation for $ 500 million as the first WTIV to fly the American flag. Owned by Dominion Energy, the 472-foot ship is currently under construction in the Gulf of Mexico and will use more than 14,000 tons of local steel.

Providing a vessel for the installation of wind turbines from Dominion Energy, which owns Charybids
Images of WTIV Charybdis at sea. Energy of domination

Once finished, Charybdis will fill the gap in the US wind farm supply chain by removing US dependence on European production. The WTIV rises on movable legs to rise into the water, providing a stable surface for carrying heavy loads and mounting foundations and turbines using cranes. Dominion Energy has is already planned for rent his new ship is for the Revolution Wind and Sunrise Wind projects of Ørsted and Eversource, two energy companies serving Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York. Charybdis will also work on the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project to expand this pilot program to 176 turbines generating a total of 2.6 gigawatts.

The offshore wind industries in Europe and Asia are also thriving with their own renewable energy ambitions: In mid-May, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands set out to 150 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2050. Burke says this underscores the need for the United States to develop its own manufacturing process, as acquiring components such as wind turbine blades will only become more competitive.

“There’s a serious need to produce this key component here,” Burke said. “What is really missing is that we do not have a comprehensive industrial strategy to position the United States as ‘super-competitive’ in wind farm machinery.”

Investing in people and infrastructure

In response, the United States has directed a stream of new funds, federal laws and local policies to boost wind energy. U.S. utility companies, drawn to the sirens of these actions, have begun to support the industry. IN Port Infrastructure Development Program within Law on the two-party infrastructure commits $ 2.25 billion over the next five years to improve port trade facilities, reduce environmental impact and build resilience to the effects of climate change such as rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions.

“The offshore wind supply chain in the United States is in its infancy. The reality is that there is a lot of work to be done. “

Brandon W. Burke, managing consultant for Ramboll

At the state level, Burke says New York and New Jersey have decided to pour millions into existing or new ports in the hope that public investment will now attract private industry in the future. Without continuous public and private investment, he explains, a local supply chain cannot be built on a large scale.

“It’s pretty amazing that offshore wind developers are already investing billions of dollars in some of these infrastructure projects, even when they don’t have their own construction plans yet,” Reacher said.

All this investment should lead to a boom in wind farm jobs over the next few years. “The hard part is the transition from a lack of industry to a stable industry. How did you manage to put these first projects in the water, while achieving this balance of as much American labor as possible, while using European experience to train the American workforce? says Josh Kaplovitz, vice president of offshore wind at American Clean Power.

[Related: The US could reliably run on clean energy by 2050]

Although estimates vary, American Clean Power estimates that more than 70,000 jobs will be created in demand for 30 gigawatts of wind energy by 2030. These construction, development and manufacturing jobs must go to the union workers, according to the Biden administration. Energy companies seem to be committed to union labor; New England developers have already signed more than 15 different employment agreements for projects that are already underway.

Such agreements are essential to holding employers accountable for any future wind project with the development of the industry, said Mariah Dickman, Long Island Regional Director for Climate Affairs, New York, a coalition of unions. This accountability, Dickman explains, includes safety protection, health benefits, pensions and market wages. “Ensuring that the internal supply chain is a trade union industry” will provide wind farm workers with jobs to support families and the community, she added.

In order for offshore wind farms to become a powerhouse in the United States, there will need to be a local workforce. For Dickman, this means building trust in the community through education and contacts, so that union workers in the energy business have the information and resources they need to build in the seas. If the manufacturing industry can catch up with the speed at which wind farms have secured funding, then 30 gigawatts may be just the beginning of the rotating turbines that power the United States in the coming years.

The NY Bight could write the book on how we build offshore wind farms in the future

Previous articleHealthcare may also be stuck in the Suez Canal
Next articleReview: The new Chip ‘N Dale movie is fun forging classic games, cartoons