An offshore wind industry was created in Europe in the last decade. Now the process is beginning to be replicated in the US, bringing much-needed jobs in the manufacturing sector.
As I reported earlier this week, the US offshore wind market is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years, bolstered by state-level political and regulatory support which are one of the keys to establishing supply chain confidence.
Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey have sought to foster visibility in the market by establishing legislative or policy targets supporting the development of 7.5 GW of generation capacity by 2030. Those states, along with others in New England, appear to have the most potential. As I reported in November last year, offshore windfarms off the east coast of the US are expected to create thousands of jobs.
But it’s not just on the east coast of the US that offshore wind projects are progressing. As I also reported this week, a consortium of companies has been established to develop a floating offshore wind project off the north coast of California.
In response to the growing number of projects in the US, turbine OEMs, manufacturers, vessel owners and contractors are rushing to establish alliances in the US market – as they are also doing in Taiwan, the other leading export market for offshore wind – and American companies are preparing to enter the market. As they do so, job opportunities on a large scale are being created, just a they have and are being created by the industry in Europe.
Aeolus Energy Group (AEG), which specialises in turbine maintenance and repair, this week announced that it was expanding into the US offshore wind market and had begun development and construction of several key assets.
AEG chief executive said the company expects to create more than 4,000 jobs in the offshore wind industry in the US in the coming years. Its investment is a demonstration of confidence in the US market.
Several projects are well into development, but what is lacking is a US construction fleet, trained American workers, and port facilities to do the work. That’s what AEG said it intends to help create, announcing “an aggressive building plan” that will include jack-up vessels capable of installing 10-12 MW turbines, cable ships capable of installing medium and high voltage cable, service operations vessels, crew transfer vessels and port facilities in Massachusetts and Maryland.
Earlier, AEG said it also awarded a contract to Ventower Industries to fabricate training towers to be installed at its new offshore wind training facility. “Our goal is to prepare an American workforce for the opportunities in offshore wind,” said the company, which is planning an initial training facility in Massachusetts with all the necessary equipment, such as access towers, pools and classrooms to train to Global Wind Organisation standards.
The sense that an offshore wind industry really is beginning to be built in the US was reinforced by news that Bay State Wind, the 50-50 partnership between Ørsted and Eversource, the New England transmission builder, have entered into an agreement with EEW, the steel pipe manufacturer, to open a facility in Massachusetts to manufacture offshore wind components.
Bay State Wind and EEW will collaborate with Gulf Island Fabrication, which specialises in building for the offshore energy industry. Together, the companies plan to make use of specialised steel manufacturing technology not currently utilised in the US.
Together the companies plan to build a new manufacturing and load-out facility that they anticipate will generate approximately 500 annual construction jobs with up to 1,200 additional annual indirect jobs in the local community. The new facility, the first of its type in the US for offshore wind, will lead to the creation of jobs for a wide range of trades.
EEW and Gulf Island Fabrication will work together on the production of monopile foundations and transition pieces, including secondary steel components, painting, and pre-fabricated components for foundations.