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Offshore wind farms have taken off around the world in recent years as climate change becomes a more prominent threat. As countries seek to comply with new government measures, new farms are being proposed and will require construction as they begin to be approved and installed off coastlines.

According to the Offshore Wind Market Report 2020 presented by the U.S. Energy Department, many companies who have been involved in such efforts in the last decade are now forecasting dozens of new wind farms to begin construction in North America alone over the next five years. To date, there are at least 12 new farms obtaining permits for construction in the United States and in one in Canada set for 2022, and the number will only continue to grow.

Further, the reentrance of the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement signaled a commitment to expanding renewable energy, which will require the undertaking of massive projects in the next decade. According to the U.S. Energy Department, the United States is on track to reach 86 gigawatts of installed offshore wind capacity by 2050 as more states approve the project plans and legislation required to begin construction. 

what does this mean for the construction industry?

As a result of the increased push for renewable energy sources like offshore wind, a new sector with tremendous growth potential is opening up in the construction industry. Across this sector, transport and logistics companies must be contracted to perform heavy lifts and transport the massive pieces that make up wind turbines to the shipyards where they will be prepared for transport via vessel. Construction companies are able to aid in turbine erection, and machinery such as jack up vessels or special cranes are required to complete installation.

In contrast to traditional wind farms, a new type of operation has appeared in recent years. Under the name Floating Offshore Wind, this kind of windfarm could represent a very important step in the consolidation of wind energy worldwide, since it can be installed in deeper marine areas (more than 50 meters), which multiplies its energy generation capacity. The main advantages of this kind of plant—in which the development and assembly will require fundamental participation by the construction industry—are a lower need for foundation material, a lower environmental impact on the seabed and a shorter installation and dismantling cycle.

The Special Initiative for Offshore Wind’s recent projections of a $70 billion pipeline in U.S. offshore wind projects in the next decade have pushed Canada to enter the market as well, made easier by the augmented supply chain for their construction which will be brought in by wind projects off the Atlantic coast. Not only is this industry taking off in North America—Europe and Asia also are heavily investing in this technology for their future energy mixes.

The outlook for the construction industry is bright as North America looks to catch up to Europe and Asia and reduce its carbon footprint by investing in new energy sources, as cranes specifically designed for lifting and installing massive turbines, are prepared to dominate in this dynamic sector.

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