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Dominion’s offshore wind construction vessel, named after Greek sea monster, moves to the water

A rendering of Dominion Energy’s planned offshore wind installation vessel Charybdis. (Photo courtesy Dominion Energy)
A rendering of Dominion Energy’s planned offshore wind installation vessel Charybdis. (Photo courtesy Dominion Energy)

Charybdis, the name of one of the Greek sea monsters who made it difficult for Odysseus to complete his epic journey in The Odyssey, is also the name of Dominion Energy’s new 471-foot ship, a vessel that will be used during construction of the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, the largest such project in the country.

This story was reported and written by our media partner The Virginia Mercury

On Monday, Dominion announced the 23,000-ton ship was lifted from land, rolled to the edge of a dock and placed in the water to undergo the rest of the work needed to finish it by late 2024. The announcement also came as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the 11th and final federal permit needed for CVOW construction to begin, which will start with monopile — or foundational supports — installation in May.

The Charybdis is not only important concerning CVOW and the offshore wind industry’s growth, it is also  “key to the continued development of a domestic  supply chain by providing a homegrown solution for the installation of offshore wind turbines,” said Bob Blue, Dominion Energy’s chair, president and chief executive officer. 

The Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, a 176-turbine wind farm 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach, is planned to be completed by the end of 2026.

Expected to generate enough electricity to power 660,000 homes, the $9.8 billion project was approved by Dominion’s regulators, the State Corporation Commission, as part of the Virginia Clean Economy Act and will contribute to its goal to decarbonize the grid by mid-century.

The Charybdis vessel will be Jones Act compliant, meaning Dominion won’t have to rely on a foreign-flagged ship that originated in another country to supply parts needed for CVOW’s construction, explained Dominion Spokesperson Jeremy Slayton. 

Under the  Jones Act, cargo being shipped between U.S. points must travel by a U.S.-built, -owned and -operated vessel, which strengthens both “economic security and national defense.” 

When a monopile that will provide the foundational support for the wind turbines is installed, it will become a point, explained Slayton.

Without the Jones Act-compliant Charybdis, Dominion would have to construct the CVOW using a process similar to how it built its first two test turbines of the project, by staging the components in Canada before shipping them down and installing them. Or, Dominion would have had to use floating barges to carry the wind turbine components out to sea, Slayton said. 

The challenge with using the barges is they would be subject to the ebbs and flows of the sea, creating instability as the 367 feet tall turbines were constructed, Slayton added. Charybdis will instead be able to extend four legs down to the sea floor, which ranges from about 75 feet to 125 feet deep, to lift the ship above the water and out of reach of the sea’s waves. 

Charybdis will also have a crane to help install  towers extending up from the monopiles, the 14.6 megawatt wind turbines and other components. 

The vessel is being built at Seatrium’s AMFELS shipyard in Brownsville Texas using U.S.- sourced steel, employing about 1,200 workers. It is expected to be delivered to the Hampton Roads area by late 2025.

“The U.S.-built vessel will not only contribute towards reliable, affordable and clean energy, but also benefit local communities in creating a significant local know-how and job opportunities,” said  Chris Ong, Seatrium’s chief executive officer.

After being used to build out CVOW, the plan for Charybdis is to utilize it for other offshore wind projects in the U.S.

Dominion’s shareholders are fronting the cost to build the ship, about $625 million. Ratepayers will then subsidize Charybdis’ ongoing use as part of the overall CVOW construction costs, which are recovered through the monthly  Rider OSW rate adjustment clause tacked onto bills. That rider amount is planned to be about $4 a month over the 35-year life of the project for the typical residential customer.