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On June 26, 2023, the Nation’s first U.S.-built offshore wind substation arrived at Rhode Island’s Providence Port after departing from a Texas fabrication facility where Danish multinational energy company, Ørsted, and domestic energy provider, Eversource, partnered to build the revolutionary vessel. The Kansas-engineered substation was designed and built by Kiewit Offshore Services, Ltd., the largest U.S. offshore fabricator, at its Corpus Christi facility before setting sail for federal waters on the New York outer continental shelf (“OCS”) on May 25th. The 1,500-ton substation was manufactured to collect power produced by turbines at the South Fork Wind Farm (one of only two active federal commercial offshore wind leases that have been approved for construction) and interconnect that electric energy to the grid. On June 22, 2023, South Fork Wind reached its monumental “steel in the water” milestone when it constructed the project’s first monopile foundation, which the substation will be installed on. Notably, Ørsted and Eversource are currently 50/50 partners for several federal offshore wind projects at various stages of development, including: South Fork Wind, projected to be the first completed utility-scale offshore wind farm in federal waters with operations estimated to begin by the end of this year, as well as Revolution Wind and Sunrise Wind, both of which have yet to start construction but are estimated to be operational by the end of 2025. However, Eversource has announced it is leaving the offshore wind development business and plans to sell its 50% partnership stakes in the three projects later this summer.

The substation’s maiden voyage marks a major breakthrough in the development of Jones Act compliant offshore wind vessels that are necessary to bring the large amount of federal utility-scale projects in the pipeline to fruition. Jones Act compliance has become a key component of the federal offshore wind regulatory regime since the enactment of the Garamendi Amendment to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (“OCSLA”), 43 U.S.C. § 1331 et seq., back in 2021. The Garamendi Amendment added just four words (“including non-mineral energy”) that effectively triggered the applicability of the Jones Act on all federal renewable energy development on the OCS—a longstanding area of jurisdictional ambiguity. The Jones Act requires that the transport of “merchandise” between U.S. “coastwise points” must be performed by “coastwise vessels” that are built in the U.S., documented under U.S. law, and wholly owned by a U.S. citizen. 46 U.S.C. § 55102. On April 14, 2022, in the wake of the Garamendi Amendment, the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued its advisory letter HQ H300962 clarifying what vessels—including Pile, Foundation, and Wind Turbine Installation Vessels (“WTIVs”)—must be Jones Act compliant and at what stages of federal project of development on the pristine OCS. In addition to creating American jobs to support the federal offshore wind industry, OCSLA’s Garamendi Amendment has major impacts on how and when European entities, with approximately 30 years of experience in constructing offshore wind farms, can engage in the installation of U.S. wind projects on the OCS.

Two more Jones Act compliant offshore wind support vessels are on the way, which Ørsted will also be the first to charter. First up, Blue Ocean Energy Marine, a Dominion Energy subsidiary, is currently constructing the first-ever U.S. flagged WTIV, named Charybdis (after a fabled Greek mythological sea monster), using domestically sourced steel, at Keppel AmFELS’s Brownsville, Texas shipyard. After the project’s anticipated completion and sea trials by the end of this year, Charybdis will be deployed for the construction of Revolution and Sunrise Wind. The terms of Ørsted’s charter should also allow Charybdis to support construction of Dominion’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (“CVOW”) project, in state waters off the coast of Virginia Beach, which is projected to be completed in 2026. Next, the first U.S.-flagged offshore wind service operations vessel (“SOV”), named the ECO Edison, is currently being built at the Edison Chouest Offshore (“ECO”) shipyard in Houma, Louisiana. The 262-foot-long SOV just reached 50% completion this April of 2023 after logging over 275,000 work hours. Once completed, ECO Edison will house 60 American wind turbine technicians as they work offshore servicing and maintaining the Revolution, Sunrise, and South Fork Wind projects. To date, the U.S. still has no Jones Act compliant Feeder Support Vessels (“FSVs”) or Field Development Vessels (“FDVs”). More offshore wind support vessels are needed, and fast, with BOEM aiming to approve 15 more Construction and Operations plans for federal offshore commercial wind leases by 2025—leaving a huge void in the Nation’s offshore wind industry for an infantile domestic supply chain and workforce to fill.

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