Vineyard Wind Tries "Bubble Curtain" System to Cut Pile-Driving Noise

Twin curtains of bubbles surround a pile-driver during turbine foundation installation (Vineyard Wind)
Twin curtains of bubbles surround this pile-driver during turbine foundation installation (Vineyard Wind)

Published May 15, 2023 10:27 PM by The Maritime Executive

Vineyard Wind, the first wind farm to begin construction in U.S. federal waters, is beginning a trial of bubble curtain technology to reduce the subsea noise impact of pile-driving during installation of wind turbine foundations. 

With $5 million in funding from Vineyard Wind's own Industry Accelerator Fund, run by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, survey contractor ThayerMahan will provide acoustic mitigation services using the Hydrotechnik-Luebeck "Big Bubble Curtain" technology. ThayerMahan will be moving its headquarters for this product line to the Foss Marine Terminal in New Bedford to support the project, and will be hiring and training locally to staff the operation. It will be the first bubble-curtain service in the U.S. offshore wind industry, according to Vineyard Wind. 

The bubble curtain system consists of two concentric rings of perforated hoses laid on the bottom around the work area. Before piledriving begins, the hoses are inflated using special-purpose clean air compressors. The perforations leak a continuous stream of bubbles around the work site. The bubbles absorb and reflect sound energy, creating a barrier that reduces noise transmission from activity inside of the curtain. According to one European contractor which uses the technology, it can cut noise outside of the curtain by 90 percent. 

“Our agreement with ThayerMahan ensures that for the first time, a US-based company will perform the service of providing a bubble curtain mitigation system for an offshore wind project,” said Vineyard Wind CEO Klaus S. Moeller. “We believe this is the first step of getting US firms experience in this new industry and sets the stage for rapid expansion in the coming years, particularly in our hometown of New Bedford.”

Vineyard is the first commercial-scale offshore wind farm in the U.S., and it is proceeding at pace. It broke ground on its shoreside infrastructure in November 2021 and began offshore cable installation in November 2022. DEME holds the contract to install the turbines, and first power to the grid should be online later this year. The wind farm will generate enough power for 400,000 homes in Massachusetts, according to Vineyard Wind.