Seacor and Fred. Olsen Team Up for U.S. Wind Farm Construction

Fred. Olsen's jackup vessel Brave Tern installs a turbine at Block Island Wind, 2016 (Fred. Olsen)

By The Maritime Executive 03-30-2018 07:31:00

This week, America's nascent offshore wind industry moved forward with two major announcements. On Thursday, Seacor subsidiary Falcon Global said that it will team up with European wind farm specialist Fred. Olsen Windcarrier to offer a combined Jones Act / foreign-flag installation service. On Wednesday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said that it would solicit comments in the permitting process for Vineyard Wind, an 800 MW farm planned off the coast of Martha's Vineyard. 

If built, Vineyard Wind would provide Cape Cod with enough power for 450,000 homes. Its developers - Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Iberdrola subsidiary Avangrid Renewables - say that it would save ratepayers about $3.7 billion in energy related costs over the project lifetime, enhance the reliability of the grid and generate about 3,600 jobs. Vineyard Wind is about to start a third round of subsea surveys to gather geological and environmental data for its permitting process. 

"The offshore wind industry continues to advance at a rapid rate, and the Administration’s commitment to energy security as well as strong state leadership will ensure its success,” said BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank in a statement. “BOEM will work with industry, government partners, and other key stakeholders to make sure that any development is done in an environmentally safe and responsible manner." 

Vineyard Wind is one of several promising new projects off the U.S. East Coast, along with Statoil's Empire Wind, Ørsted's Ocean Wind and Avangrid's proposed Kitty Hawk site. As the  U.S. offshore wind industry picks up steam, developers will have to contend with the question of cabotage - that is, how to install their turbines while complying with the Jones Act's requirements for cargo carriage between U.S. points. Objects anchored to the continental shelf - like offshore oil and gas platforms and wind turbines - are covered by these requirements. 

Falcon Global and Fred. Olsen Windcarrier pioneered a hybrid solution to this question when they installed the five-turbine Block Island Wind project. Falcon's Jones Act lift boats served as feeder vessels while Fred. Olsen's installation ships and crews handled the assembly and placement of the towers. 

“The two companies combine the best of U.S. marine expertise and Jones Act compliant liftboats with European offshore wind know-how and class leading jack-up vessels for the upcoming US offshore wind farms," said Fred. Olsen Ocean VP Ketil Arvesen in a statement. "This unique combination of available assets and experience . . . will enable installation of multi-megawatt offshore turbines in the U.S., bringing business case certainty to the developers."

Seacor is no stranger to the wind industry or to Jones Act/foreign flag hybrid business models. It operates wind farm service workboats in the EU under its Windcat subsidiary, and it owns a wide variety of other foreign- and U.S.-flagged vessels.