Factoring Constructability into Offshore Wind Development
The planning and permitting complexities associated with bringing offshore wind projects to fruition are why such projects are often four- to six-year endeavors, with construction accounting for the last 18 to 24 months. However, the financial success of any project centers on planning and permitting a constructable scope. That is why developers should engage construction expertise early in the planning process.
Planning and permitting offshore wind projects, particularly the onshore grid interconnection, is a figurative Rubik’s Cube puzzle. Public opinion, permitting and cost are the three primary factors that must all be balanced and aligned while working through challenges across numerous local jurisdictions — and, potentially, multiple state regulatory authorities, federal agencies and regional transmission grid operators — to gain approval for essential infrastructure construction.
Our team is supporting development efforts on a number of emerging offshore wind projects with regard to interconnection of the offshore system with the onshore grid. For these projects, we are conducting system studies to identify substations best suited to plug offshore wind power into the grid, as well as conducting routing studies and developing cost estimates while proactively identifying risk. This work must balance public considerations, comply with state and local regulations, and enable reliable grid operations.
Notably, what may initially appear to be the least expensive technical option is often not the best option for such projects. For example, if the lowest cost route for transmission is through a residential or environmentally sensitive area, public opposition will likely be profound. This usually results in permit delays that push the construction start date. Municipalities may seek significant restrictions on construction activities, such as times of day to reduce noise or to not impact traffic. Environmental permits, such as for construction through wetlands, also involve compliance during construction. We help clients understand if such restrictions can be reasonably met and the expected costs or implications for meeting them.
Understanding the cost of compliance along with the cost to build enables developers to make more informed decisions and avoid unforeseen issues while planning in-service date and return on investment. Early engagement with construction specialists helps developers manage stakeholder relationships, thoroughly understand the cost to construct a project, and mitigate risk, setting a project up for success.