472-foot Ship ‘Charybdis’ to Install Wind Turbines out of New London

RICHMOND, VA. — Ørsted and Eversource have agreed to charter the first Jones Act-qualified offshore wind turbine installation vessel in the United States from Dominion Energy for the construction of two offshore wind farms located in the waters off New England. 

Dominion Energy, Ørsted and Eversource announced the contract on Monday for the 472-foot ship, named Charybdis, which will operate first from State Pier in New London to install Ørsted-Eversource’s 704-MW Revolution Wind and 924-MW Sunrise Wind farms. 

Neither Dominion Energy nor Eversource would disclose the cost of the charter agreement due to “commercially sensitive information.” Ørsted could not be reached for comment. 

Charybdis is significant because it can operate in compliance with the Jones Act, a federal maritime law that requires goods shipped between U.S. ports be transported on vessels that are constructed, owned and operated by U.S. citizens. 

“A Jones Act-qualified installation vessel is a game-changer for the development of the U.S. offshore wind industry,” said David Hardy, chief executive officer of Ørsted Offshore North America in a release. “This investment will enable us to unlock the economic benefits of offshore wind, not just for the Northeast, but for the Southern states as well.”

The vessel will also support the construction of Dominion Energy’s 2.6 gigawatt Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind farm off the coast of Virginia Beach, expected to be completed in 2026, subject to state regulatory approval. The vessel’s home port will be in Hampton Roads, Virginia. 

The approximately $500 million ship is under construction in Brownsville, Texas, at the shipyard of Keppel AmFELS and is expected to be ready in late 2023. The vessel, fabricated with more than 14,000 tons of domestic steel, is capable of installing turbine foundations and can handle turbine sizes of 12 megawatts or larger. 

The design of Charybdis is based on its sister-boat, the Scylla, a European flag ship that is an offshore wind turbine installation vessel. In Homer’s “Odyssey,” Charybdis and Scylla are sea creatures each on opposite sides of what was later said to be the Strait of Messina. 

Mike Ausere, vice president of business development for Eversource, called the jack-up design of the ship “incredibly more efficient than an alternative approach using feeder barges.”

“The other thing is that it’s going to really be a watershed moment for the creation of this industry, the supply chain here in the United States — the vessel itself is actually under construction already — it’s being built in Texas — and at peak construction period there will be 1000 jobs created for this in Texas and this could be a real shot in the arm to the U.S. shipbuilding industry,” he said. 

Ausere said that 460 jobs will be created during the construction of State Pier and, once completed, there will be 100 jobs for longshoremen, stevedores and turbine technicians, among others. He said certain characteristics of State Pier are advantageous for offshore wind construction. 

“The vessel that we announced today is really what we had in mind when we started working with Connecticut Port Authority on the potential for offshore wind,” he said. “You’re relatively close to the construction areas or the lease areas, but the real advantage is the fact that it is a deepwater port because the depth of draft of this vessel is almost 40 feet, which is deep.”

The towers for the turbines are going to be assembled on State Pier and transferred to the ship for transport to the lease areas, which Ausere said was possible because the pier has direct access to the open ocean without bridges or barriers, 

“When it goes out to sea, that minimizes the construction we’re actually having to do out in the open ocean, which is more efficient. It’s also safer,” he said.

Ausere said Charybdis will not be ready in time for the construction of Ørsted-Eversource’s South Fork Wind farm, a 132-MW project, which will be the first offshore wind project staged at State Pier. 

“We’re pursuing other solutions for that. We probably will have something to announce on that relatively soon, but it will not be the Dominion vessel that builds South Fork.” 

In February, the City of New London and Ørsted-Eversource signed a 10-year host community agreement that guarantees $5.25 million in new revenue to the city and could increase depending on power purchase agreements awarded from the state.

Gov. Ned Lamont said, in a release, that the upgrade of State Pier to a state-of-the-art facility and the arrival of Charybdis in support of Ørsted-Eversource’s offshore wind projects were significant in stimulating the local and state economy. 

“All of this activity assists in advancing our state’s clean energy economy and helps position New London as a hub for the industry, delivering jobs and economic development to the city and Connecticut overall.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the advent of an American-built vessel was a landmark moment for the U.S. offshore wind industry. 

“It represents a generational commitment to the American shipbuilding industry, the domestic infrastructure required to meet the monumental challenges posed by climate change, and American workers.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said the state is poised to be a renewable energy leader. “Today’s announcement is confirmation that companies see our state as a good partner for wind energy,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D–2nd District, Conn., said eastern Connecticut has a major part to play in the global clean energy economy. 

“The uptick in offshore wind activity has already brought business and job opportunities to our communities, local suppliers, and other industries through federal grants and public and private investment, and today’s announcement is a signal of all the continued growth and opportunity on the horizon.” 

New London Mayor Michael Passero said the city looked forward to the arrival of Charybdis to “our historic, deep water port.”

“This major green energy milestone means local jobs and community investment in our maritime economy, as New London redevelops its port facility and emerges as a premier offshore wind hub for the Northeast,” he said. 

Correction: The original version of this story reported that Sunrise Wind would produce 880 megawatts of power — the correct number is 924 megawatts. Also, the towers for the turbines are going to be assembled on State Pier, not the full turbine as stated in the original version.

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