A keel laying ceremony was held for the country's first plug-in hybrid service operation vessel (SOV) at Edison Chouest Offshore's (ECO) LaShip Shipyard in Houma, La. The ceremony marks the beginning of the construction process for the vessel, which is set to play a crucial role in the operations and maintenance of two offshore wind farms off the coast of Long Island, New York.

The 262' SOV will serve Empire Offshore Wind, a joint venture between Equinor and BP. With a 10-year charter agreement in place, the vessel is expected to begin operations in the mid-2020s. The SOV will provide accommodation for up to 60 wind turbine technicians who will be responsible for overseeing the maintenance and upkeep of the Empire Wind 1 and Empire Wind 2 offshore wind farms, which are located 15-30 miles southeast of Long Island.

What sets this SOV apart is its design as a plug-in hybrid vessel. The US-flagged and Jones Act-compliant vessel will be homeported at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal (SBMT) in New York. It will be certified to EPA Tier 4 emissions standards, ensuring environmentally friendly operations. Moreover, the vessel will have the capability to partially operate on battery power, further reducing its carbon footprint and contributing to sustainable offshore wind operations.

The Empire Wind project spans 80,000 acres, with water depths ranging from approximately 75' to 135'. Its two phases, Empire Wind 1 and Empire Wind 2, will have a combined installed capacity of over 2 gigawatts (GW), making them a significant contributor to New York's renewable energy goals. Once completed, Empire Wind 1 and Empire Wind 2 are expected to provide renewable energy to power over 1 million New York households.

The endeavor by ECO and Empire Offshore Wind is a significant boost to the US offshore wind industry. ECO is not only constructing this hybrid SOV for Empire Offshore Wind, but is also working on another SOV, ECO Edison, set to be delivered in 2024 for Ørsted and Eversource's joint venture offshore wind portfolio in the Northeastern U.S.

ECO estimates that the construction of these vessels is expected to generate over 250 high-skilled jobs across 34 U.S. states, contributing to the growth and development of the local economy.