Cleveland’s AT&F is first-to-market in fabricating steel foundations for Lake Erie wind project.
The potential for offshore wind power generation in the U.S. is staggering. At a projected 4,223 gigawatts of electric generating potential (with the Ohio waters of Lake Erie alone accounting for more than 50 GW of that power), offshore wind offers a viable, untapped opportunity for large-scale clean energy projects that produce zero emissions in operation, consume no water, and displace generation from some of our nation’s dirtiest power plants.
But the U.S. lags behind the rest of the world in offshore wind power generation. With at least 80 offshore projects in operation or under construction (powered by more than 1,900 wind turbines), Europe leads the world in design and deployment of offshore wind farms, having the backing and support of key developers and governments over the past 30 years to master the many intricacies and challenges related to offshore wind.
Back home in the U.S., offshore wind development is in its infant stages, as federal, state and local governments, along with wind farm developers, have just taken the first steps in a quest to harvest electricity from the consistent and unobstructed wind that bellows off the coast.
As a front-runner in the race to develop one of the first offshore wind projects in the United States, the non-profit Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) is currently developing a demonstration project called “Icebreaker” that will solve the unique challenges of deploying wind turbines in a freshwater environment. With a design consisting of six wind turbines positioned seven miles off the coast of Cleveland, Icebreaker will become a catalyst to building an offshore wind industry in Ohio and the Great Lakes region.
And with new industries and new markets come old challenges, according to Eric Ritter, LEEDCo communications and strategy manager, who noted that the natural approach to manufacturing components for such a project would traditionally come from overseas, where the offshore wind industry is already well established. But this is where the tide turns. “Our options were to either look to Europe and hire suppliers that had the specific manufacturing capabilities, or go the local route and identify those manufacturers with similar capabilities, then hone those capabilities to meet our offshore standards and requirements,” said Ritter.
Building a U.S. supply chain is precisely the direction that LEEDCo has taken for Icebreaker. In 2012, the organization assembled a team of international firms with expertise in offshore wind and partnered them with local companies interested in expanding into this emerging market.
Together, they developed conceptual engineering designs for the structural foundations that would support Icebreaker’s six wind turbines.
With those designs in hand, LEEDCo organized a special workshop in Cleveland and invited a dozen regional steel fabrication and construction firms that were pre-qualified by WIRE-Net’s Global Wind Network (GLWN) to review the designs and offer feedback.
“Our goal was to identify a foundation type that could withstand Lake Erie’s harshest winters and could also be fabricated by American companies,” said Ritter. “Based in part on the feedback from the local supply chain, we ultimately chose the monopile-type foundation. Now we’re working to complete the detailed design and optimize it for the existing capabilities of our domestic steel fabricators. The United States, and our region in particular, has some of the best steel fabrication companies in the world. Our design will enable them to compete against their European counterparts that already have decades of experience in this industry.”
As LEEDCo launches its effort to complete the detailed design of the foundation, the non-profit developer recently announced that it has partnered with Cleveland-based AT&F (formerly American Tank & Fabricating) to represent the interests of U.S. fabricators. The company will advise LEEDCo’s engineering team to ensure that the final design matches U.S. standards and specifications. As one of the country’s top metal fabricators, AT&F has serviced the heavy industrial, energy and defense industries since 1940.
“We can roll the steel for this project and it’s right in our backyard,” said AT&F president and CEO Michael Forde Ripich. “LEEDCo was instrumental in bringing the design development for the offshore foundations to the table and presenting an integrated solution that garners the strength of suppliers from Northeast Ohio and neighboring states and utilizes their existing strengths and capabilities.” Offshore Wind Market Offers New Opportunities for U.S. Manufacturers Cleveland’s AT&F is first-to-market in fabricating steel foundations for Lake Erie wind project. Offshore wind farm foundation.
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Filed Under: News, Offshore wind, Projects