Forging a supply chain for the Great Lakes wind projects

You might think that a small six turbine offshore wind farm in shallow, fresh water would be a piece of cake. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A small group of passionate visionaries have been working to turn a dream into reality since 2009. Recently at a ballroom in a Cleveland Holiday Inn, some nearly 300 invited company representatives showed up to offer their services to the project manager of Icebreaker Wind, slated for Lake Erie. Dr. Lorry Wagner, President of the Lake Erie Energy Development Co (LEEDCo) and the project lead, explained that Icebreaker is a Department of Energy funded  demonstration project to better chart the permitting processes, marine logistics, and operations

Universal Foundation is the main contractor for the mono or suction bucket. The company is responsible for engineering, fabrication, delivery, support of installation, and commissioning. The 450-ton foundations will be fabricated somewhere near Cleveland.

involved, and will serve as a stepping stone to build an offshore wind industry in the Great Lakes, an ideal location for renewable energy given the region’s growing energy needs, historic air quality problems, and the availability of local manufacturing and other businesses to service this industry.  The project is planned and financed and permitting is underway.  Two-thirds of the wind farm’s power output has been purchased and the companies are looking for a buyer for the remaining one-third.

LEEDCo is looking for local companies to supply materials, engineering, construction, logistics and many other services before construction can begin in 2018. The 20.7-MW project has to contend with the fact that a lot of Atlantic or Gulf coast equipment cannot pass through the St. Lawrence Seaway into the Great Lakes.

Dr. Wagner kicked off the meeting explaining the scope of the project and work details. For instance, the project is broken into five major contracts that include the wind turbine, its foundation, a submarine cable, an onshore substation and grid connection, and marine operations and logistics. Fred.Olsen Renewables will be the prime contractor and representatives were available to discuss each subcontract. “Be sure you get your company name and contact information listed and find the contract lead to better understand different aspects of the project and ways to get involved,” said Wagner.

“Our strategy partitions the project into five contracts,” said Dave Karpinski, LEEDCo VP of Operations. “There is a great deal of opportunity for work under each of the various elements of the project. Vestas and Universal Foundation are the two lead contractors and they each will need the service of several subcontractors.”

Wagner introduced Oyvin Lund, with wind-farm developer Fred.Olsen Renewables (FOR), as the project manager responsible for delivering the project safely, on time, and on budget. Lund was chosen because he has managed similar projects around the world.

LEEDCo and FOR must put a lot of moving parts into place to get steel in the Lake. For example, a jack-up barge or vessel will be needed to provide a stable platform for lifting turbine nacelles onto towers. But no such vessel exists on the Great Lakes, so one may have to be built. Joachim Lund Nærø, responsible for Marine operations and logistics (Fifth column in the Local opportunities chart below) said his team would first conduct an inventory of Great Lake ports to see what is available. If he finds nothing

The six Vestas turbines will be mounted eight miles offshore and tie into a substation at Cleveland Public Power.

suitable, he would consider how the available equipment might be modified to accommodate the project.

Another example of work: Nikoli Halum, from Universal Foundation, will manage the engineering and fabrication of the six suction-bucket foundations. The welded structure is quite large, about 25-ft diameter and 20-ft long with a transition piece (tower connector) extending above that. A contractor has been selected in the Cleveland area capable of handling the foundations. Building it will require support from welding contractors and other suppliers. The Port of Cleveland will serve as a staging area.

Wagner added that the December supply chain event was the first step to let the community better understand the supply chain process. There will be other events to connect people and companies.

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