Emissions, Renewables, Wind

Blog: Old Jones Act could hinder new U.S. offshore wind projects

“The vessels that install offshore wind turbines are enormous and highly specialized to their task. There aren’t many of them, as they are very expensive to build, and the cost for their time is substantial.

“They are generally European-flagged or -owned.

“This situation, in particular, could pose serious challenges for the many parties interested in developing offshore wind projects in U.S. coastal waters, thanks to a century-old federal law known as the Jones Act,” writes Burns & McDonnell offshore wind director Tony Appleton in a recent company blog, repurposed here with permission.

“That law, formally known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, mandates that only vessels built, owned, managed and crewed by Americans can operate between U.S. ports. For any piece of equipment to be transported from one U.S. port to another, it must be on a Jones Act-compliant vessel. Since offshore wind farms, with foundations being built in U.S. territorial waters, are treated as ports under the law, this imposes significant constraints upon the expansion of 21st-century offshore wind farms.

“The nascent offshore wind market in the U.S. does not currently have turbine equipment being built domestically, so the turbine blades, nacelles and more must be imported. But getting that equipment to the wind farm site runs into Jones Act issues.

“The simplest execution plan being explored requires very costly double-handling of the turbine equipment. The equipment is imported to a U.S. port, then brought to the wind turbine site on a Jones Act-compliant barge. It is then lifted onto a specialized vessel for installation. In addition to the inherent risk of transferring expensive equipment between floating platforms in an ocean, extra handling requires extra expense.”

Click here to read all of Appleton’s blog. He specializes in the offshore renewable energy and interconnection global markets and has led teams ranging from front-end feasibility studies to commissioning, operations and maintenance.