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In the United States, French company Nexans equips wind turbines with American products

Article Republished By Javier Troconis

The tip of Montauk is a bit like Brittany is to the French, but at the end of Long Island and with its eyes turned to the east. Fifty-six kilometers away, in the Atlantic Ocean, gigantic offshore wind turbines will soon be seen floating: 12 turbines manufactured by Siemens, with blades larger than the Statue of Liberty, whose construction began in mid-February. The wind farm, called the South Fork Wind Farm, is expected to generate 130 megawatts and power 70,000 homes in East Hampton, where wealthy New Yorkers like to vacation.

After seven long years of proceedings, the first New York offshore wind farm should finally be completed by the end of 2023, while the Biden administration increases the number of auctions to install offshore wind turbines along the American coasts. A wind farm means windmills, but also 138,000-volt submarine cables to be laid at a depth of more than 100 meters and to pass under the dunes and the beach of East Hampton. The architect of this part of the project, worth about $200 million (189.5 million euros), is the French group Nexans, which now has its cable ship, Aurora, and its cable factory installed in Charleston, South Carolina.

On Monday, April 4, after passing a nuclear submarine base, the immense, brand new, red ship can be seen at the dock; it came from Norwegian shipyards in 2021, for the modest sum of 170 million euros, and stands at 155 meters long and 20,000 tonnes when empty. Coming out of the Charleston factory, a thick black cable is being relentlessly wound into a huge yellow reel, under the careful supervision of six workers.

At a rate of 8 meters per minute, the loading takes more than 10 days and allows 63 kilometers of cable to be loaded. In total, 10,000 tonnes: “as much as the Eiffel Tower,” said Pierre-Jérôme Henin, Nexans’ communications manager. The ship has multiple control rooms at different angles of the vessel to allow for close maneuvering during the installation and has all kinds of equipment to assist it: a robot to expel pressurized water to bury the cables under the sand and another to visualize the underwater installation. The days of laying a cable without careful planning are over – the customer wants to be sure that it is placed without twisting or tension, so as to last a long time.

The Aurora's probe can dive to a depth of 3,000 meters to monitor the placement of cables on the seafloor. Charleston, South Carolina, April 4, 2022.

A full order book

According to Nexans’ managing director, Christopher Guérin, the order book is full until 2025. And the crew is preparing to go back down the 38 kilometers of the channel in the river and take to the sea, heading not for the American coast, but for the North Sea. Here’s why: Nexans (7 billion euros in revenue in 2021) is going to “test” the first cables coming out of its American factory with its loyal customer Seagreen, off the coast of Scotland, and, above all, because the American market is slow to take off.

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