Wind-farm vessels for the U.S.?
January 22, 2013
With the presidential
inauguration behind us, and a new Congress starting up, there’s one less thing
on their to-do list.
As part of the famed fiscal
cliff deal, Congress gave the wind power industry a boost, and in doing so, also
boosted the workboat sector.
The deal would extend for one
year the energy tax credit that provides a 2.2-cents per kilowatt-hour subsidy
— which proponents prefer to call a much- needed financial incentive — to
energy produced by wind power. This will cover all projects that start in 2013.
This is good news for
workboat companies and shipyards that have been closely watching the
development of offshore wind farms as a new business opportunity. Construction
and maintenance phases will require specially designed offshore wind-farm vessels for transporting workers, supplies and
materials to offshore wind sites. Construction usually takes two years, and the
lifespan of a wind farm is 25 years.
The extension has added some
stability to the market, which had slowed in recent years due to financial
concerns, the expiring tax credit, and environmental issues. So far, all
offshore projects are in the planning or research phases, and unlike Europe,
the U.S. has not erected one offshore turbine. Europe has several wind-farm
vessels in operation.
Supporters now predict that
this will be a busy year for wind, as two projects off the New England coast
are set to begin construction, and others are in the pipeline.
In addition, the Obama
administration has identified two more offshore areas along the East Coast
suitable for wind farms with leases going to competitive bid this year, and has
announced $47 million in grants to demonstrate direct drive turbines and new
types of foundations for offshore wind.
So things are moving forward.
For sure, environmental and cost concerns persist, but these are all positive
developments for the workboat industry, and for national energy production as