Wind Energy – U.S.A.
Shipbuilders in the port city of Brownsville, Texas, are nearing the halfway mark on shaping 14,000 tons of steel into a vessel designed to ensure the country’s gamble on offshore wind is less dicey.
Meanwhile, 1,676 miles east in Virginia, executives with Richmond-based Dominion Energy who ordered the ship have their fingers crossed.
They are hopeful home-state regulators will greenlight a request by their subsidiary, Dominion Energy Virginia, to deploy the $500 million colossus to ‘plant’ the country’s hugest — and Virginia’s first — full-scale commercial offshore wind farm beginning in summer 2025.
Dominion has dubbed its hulk Charybdis, after the daunting sea monster of Greek mythology. Eventually, the brawny, 472-foot-long vessel will be equipped with sturdy legs that stabilize it on the seafloor and a main crane capable of toting 2,200 tons — the equivalent of 4,400 grand pianos.
The looming challenge of efficiently securing 176 mega-turbines to the ocean floor off the coast of Virginia Beach is what prompted the parent company to dip its corporate toe into ship construction.
After enduring a convoluted but ultimately successful process to install its precursor two-turbine pilot project in 2020, Dominion decision-makers are confident that investing in the nation’s first specialized installation vessel is wise — and potentially lucrative.
“The pilot helped educate us,” said Charlotte McAfee, director of construction projects at Dominion who has guided progress on Charybdis since early October. “It showed us that this commercial project is really best managed with a vessel with a U.S. flag.”