US OSW Project Construction Pinch Points

Two weeks ago New York State announced that they were negotiating contracts with two OSW projects totaling 1,696 MW, with 2024 commercial operation dates (COD), a year when additional 1,348 MW is scheduled to enter commercial operation: Ørsted US Offshore Wind’s (Ørsted’s) 1,100 MW Ocean Wind Project and US Wind’s 248 MW Maryland project. With this the US Northeast/Mid-Atlantic has awarded or is anticipated to award this year OSW contracts representing over 6,000 MW. These are shown by their anticipated COD and developer below.

* Ørsted projects are with various partners including Eversource, PSEG and Dominion.

These projects will result in cumulative investment of about $22 billion and about 13,000 direct jobs (FTEs) and a total employment impact of over 42,000 during the construction period. This is a quick start to a major new industry where the supply chain to support it is just beginning to be developed. An obvious question is: can this industry develop at this pace, without significant and costly growing pains? While there are many challenges, work appears to be underway to address some of the largest pinch points. Oft-cited examples include ports, vessels and qualified labor in some trades (ex. metal fabrication and marine services).

States and OSW developers are aware of the port constraints and are seeking to ensure that the necessary investments have been made to enable the construction of these projects at reasonable costs and without undue delays.  Based on our assessment some gaps are that Vineyard Wind appears to need an additional port for its 800 MW contract with the Massachusetts EDCs beyond the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal and Equinor is in need of a port for marshalling, but New York State has earmarked $200 million for near term port development. 

Sufficient suitable vessels are another possible constraint. The Jones Act and port infrastructure clearly will shape the vessel spreads that developers will employ. While there are reportedly Jones Act compliant OSW installation vessels under construction, vessels and port restrictions including their size (both laydown area and quayside length), air draft restrictions and available infrastructure present challenges.

With respect to labor force constraints, this level of OSW development would result in about 2,400 fabricated structural metal manufacturing jobs and 1,600 marine services jobs (FTEs) during the construction period and over 500 OSW maintenance jobs. These are three areas with particular needs that could outstrip available resources, without training.  However, numerous investments being made by states and OSW developers to develop the workforce and suggests that this potential constraint is beginning to be addressed.

Some final questions:

  • Our initial analysis indicates that the critical pinch points are being addressed.   However, how do all these programs and investment fit together?
  • Is there unnecessary overlap or areas where additional investment will provide the greatest benefit in terms of avoiding supply constraints and facilitating the desired development of the OSW supply chain in the US?