BP Considering Suction Bucket Foundations for US Offshore Wind Farm
The Beacon Wind offshore wind project in the US could feature suction bucket jacket foundations as the developer – a joint venture between BP and Equinor which is in the process of moving towards BP taking full ownership of Beacon Wind – requested approval to perform suction bucket tests as part of the site investigation activities.
On 2 February, the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) published a draft environmental impact statement (EIA) for suction bucket foundation tests at the Beacon Wind lease area which opened a public comment period that runs until 4 March.
The draft EIA follows an application the developer submitted in March last year for an amendment to the Site Assessment Plan (SAP) to include the suction bucket tests as additional activities as these were not included in the SAP previously approved by BOEM in 2021.
In the document now up for public comment, BOEM finds the impact of the testing on benthic resources, fishing, and marine wildlife including fish, marine mammals and sea turtles, from negligible to minor (in a four-level classification scheme from negligible, minor, moderate, to major).
According to the draft EIA, installing suction bucket foundations has environmental advantages over pile driving since it produces less noise and less disturbance for underwater life.
The Beacon Wind lease area is located more than 97 kilometres (60 miles) east of Montauk Point and 32 kilometres (20 miles) south of Nantucket, and is being developed in two phases.
BOEM started the permitting process for the two projects’ Construction and Operation Plan (COP) in June 2023.
This first phase, the 1,230 MW Beacon Wind 1, is currently under development and is planned to connect to the grid in Queens, New York. Beacon Wind 1 already has a 25-year offtake agreement in place with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
The 1,200 MW Beacon Wind 2 will be developed at a later date and could be connected to the grid either in Waterford, Connecticut, or Queens, New York.
The lease area was secured by Equinor, with BP joining in 2021 the US offshore wind projects under development by Equinor. Now, the partners are restructuring the ownership of their joint US offshore wind projects and, by mid-2024, Equinor will take full ownership of the Empire Wind 1 and 2 projects and BP will hold a 100 per cent stake in the Beacon Wind 1 and 2 projects.
BP has already employed suction bucket testing in the UK, where the company is developing offshore wind projects in partnership with EnBW.
As reported at the end of December 2023, the developers were preparing to start suction bucket trials within the array areas of the Mona and Morgan offshore wind farm sites, located off North West England and North Wales.
For the UK projects, BP and EnBW state in their environmental impact assessment (EIA) scoping reports that a number of foundation types are being considered for the two proposed offshore wind farms and that the type(s) to be used will not be confirmed until the final design, after the projects are granted consent.
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