New Dawn for USA Offshore Wind


Steve Robertson, Director - Air & Sea Analytics

June 2023 marked a major landmark in the history of US offshore wind as the first two commercial-scale projects, South Fork and Vineyard saw construction commence with the first foundation installations. Prior to this only two small projects had been built - in 2017 the Block Island project came online with a capacity of 30MW and was followed in 2020 by a 12 MW (2 turbines) demonstration project.

Vineyard Wind will see 62 turbines installed, each rated at 13MW, giving the wind farm an 806MW capacity and South Fork will feature 12 turbines with total capacity of 132MW.

These projects involve some impressive heavy lift installation vessels with Boskalis's Bokalift 2 currently operating at South Fork whilst DEME’s Orion is working at Vineyard. Supporting these projects is a myriad of other supply vessels, heavy transportation vessels, crew transfer vessels (CTVs) but perhaps most excitingly the first dedicated offshore wind crew transfer helicopters in the US. A view of the relevant (offshore wind only) vessel and helicopter activity over 24hours last week shows the first Heliservice aircraft actively employed through the day on both the Vinyard and South Fork projects.

These 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). Furthermore, 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.

Source: Air & Sea Analytics

Offshore wind has been produced for over 30 years in Europe and the small scale and near-shore nature of the early windfarms favoured marine solutions for simplicity. 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. 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. The marine conditions and scale of the projects should favour rotorcraft transfer and we expect at least two dozen helicopters active in offshore wind in the next ten years.

We follow the offshore wind marine and aviation markets with continuing interest.

Steve Robertson, Director - Air & Sea Analytics