Building a wind industry across Connecticut

In meeting with officials from Orsted and Eversource, the offshore wind power partnership eyeing the New London port as a staging site and, more recently, with Lars Pedersen, the CEO of Vineyard Wind, which has focused on Bridgeport as its staging site, what has become apparent to the editorial board is what an enormous opportunity this is for Connecticut.

Soon the state will announce the awarding of contracts for 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind power, enough to supply about 1 million homes. Connecticut has approximately 1.5 million housing units, though this electricity would feed into a grid that distributes power throughout New England.

Both Orsted and Eversource, operating in Connecticut as Constitution Wind, and Vineyard Wind have submitted various bids under this process. How the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection divvies up the award will go a long way in determining the viability and the scope of these two potential port projects.

While we may have a home-team interest in seeing the bulk or all of the energy supply awards go to Constitution Wind, the best choice for the state and for the viability of the industry is to see the awards divided up in some relatively equal fashion between the two.

In his visit last week with the editorial board, Pedersen made the point that the ramping up of wind farm construction off the Eastern Seaboard could well be so enormous that multiple ports will be needed to meet the demand. Given the electricity demands of the Northeast, the diminishing contribution of nuclear power, and the desire to reduce fossil fuel use and the associated greenhouse emissions, electricity provided by offshore wind could grow to 25,000 megawatts over the next decade, Pedersen said. That would power 12.5 million homes.

Vineyard Wind is a joint venture of Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables.

Also in the bidding, but with a less clear upside for Connecticut, is Mayflower Wind, backed by Shell as it moves into the renewable market.

Providing a substantial portion of the award to Constitution Wind would only make sense. While a final deal has not been revealed, Gov. Ned Lamont announced months ago the outlines of a plan to invest $93 million in the state-owned State Pier in New London, with $57.5 million of that investment committed by the Orsted and Eversource partnership. While the Orsted and Eversource venture has already secured awards to provide Connecticut and Rhode Island with 700 megawatts, expanding that portfolio through the current bid process would expand the scope, size and sustainability of support operations in New London.

But if Connecticut can, sooner than later, get solar-wind support operations underway in both New London and Bridgeport, the state could find itself as a staging area for wind turbine construction serving multiple states in the Northeast. The two ports have the good fortune of having no bridges between their ports and the Atlantic Ocean, a requirement for moving the towering turbine stanchions from the land to their installation in the sea.

Then there is the politics of the matter. Dividing the electric supply award and having ports in New London and Bridgeport feeding into offshore wind development will assure that a broad and powerful legislative voting bloc is in place to support an industry that could have a profound and positive economic impact on Connecticut.

A study co-authored by New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and the Clean Energy States Alliance — of which Connecticut is a member — found that developing 8,000 MW of offshore wind from Maryland to Maine by 2030 could create up to 36,000 full-time, good-paying U.S. jobs. If Pedersen’s prediction of triple that amount of offshore wind energy materializes, the job creation could increase substantially.

Connecticut can share a major portion of the benefits that flow from this industry that is new to our shores but well established in Europe. That is, if it doesn’t mess things up.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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