"How US Protectionism Is Holding Back The Country’s Offshore Wind Plans"

"The Biden admin has an ambitious target for new offshore wind farms — but a 100-year-old law is slowing down construction and ratcheting up installation costs."

"When turbine blades for the United States’ first offshore wind project left port in September 2023, headed for the Vineyard Wind 1 project off Massachusetts, they were traveling on a barge instead of a wind turbine installation vessel, or WTIV. These purpose-built vessels are common in other parts of the world and make the job much, much easier.

A WTIV is a transportation and construction rig in one. Frequently equipped with a big crane, deployable legs and a dynamic positioning system, WTIVs can support the installation of several humongous turbines per trip. There are dozens of WTIVs plying the world’s waters. So why were the Vineyard Wind 1 blades delivered on a barge? This expensive, inefficient workaround was necessary because of a century-old law known as the Jones Act.

Also known as Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the Jones Act requires anyone transporting goods from one point in the United States to another to use an American ship. And by a modern interpretation of the old law, an offshore turbine counts as a point in the United States. The trouble is, the United States doesn’t have any WTIVs. The country could theoretically use a foreign WTIV to carry out the actual installation, and then use barges to transport things from shore to the work site, but that misses out on the biggest advantage of using one of the multipurpose vessels.

Without the appropriate equipment, the country’s offshore wind efforts are being plagued by the need for repeated smaller-capacity barge trips that have added costs to projects already beset by financial difficulties. The Danish energy company Ørsted, for example, cited vessel delays as part of the reason why it canceled two planned projects off the New Jersey coast: Ocean Wind 1 and 2."

David Jen reports for Hakai magazine February 19, 2024.

Source: Hakai, 02/21/2024