New London, state leaders push offshore wind development as Mass., R.I. projects move forward
Massachusetts and Rhode Island on Wednesday tapped two offshore wind developers who also remain in the hunt to provide offshore wind power to Connecticut, where local officials and energy companies are pushing for a new hub of manufacturing in a growing industry.
Massachusetts picked New Bedford-based Vineyard Wind, a joint venture between Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and United Illuminating-parent company Avangrid, to develop the first large-scale offshore wind farm in the U.S.
In Rhode Island, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced the state selected Providence-based Deepwater Wind — which built the Block Island Wind Farm — to construct a 400-megawatt offshore wind farm called Revolution Wind.
Both wind farms are planned for federal waters south of Martha's Vineyard. The companies must hammer out contracts with utilities and gain final state approvals for the projects, whose combined 1,200 megawatts could power more than 400,000 New England homes.
Along with Bay State Wind, a joint venture between Denmark-based Orsted and Eversource, Deepwater Wind and Vineyard Wind submitted competing offshore wind proposals to Connecticut in April. The same wind farms delivering power to Rhode Island and Massachusetts would inject electricity into Connecticut, if the state picks either Deepwater Wind or Vineyard Wind.
Bay State Wind proposed a 200-megawatt wind farm for Connecticut, also in federal waters south of Martha's Vineyard, about 65 miles off the coast of New London.
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said it expects to select offshore wind bids in June.
New London and Connecticut 'open for business'
While Vineyard Wind plans to manufacture components at New Bedford's Marine Commerce Terminal for the Massachusetts project, local leaders hope offshore wind development could help boost the southeastern Connecticut economy as well.
Connecticut Port Authority officials said last month that five companies, including some wind energy developers, expressed interested in operating the New London State Pier. The port authority board plans to pick a port operator in the fall.
Scott Bates, deputy secretary of state and chairman of the port authority's board, described New London and Connecticut as "open for business."
"We have the people who know how to handle this kind of construction," Bates said by phone Wednesday. "We have the space. We have the harbor that doesn't have the overhead restrictions that other places have. There's a big enough market out there that we think we'll be well-positioned."
The Connecticut proposals all discuss potential wind component construction in the state and opportunities for hundreds of new jobs in the region.
Deepwater Wind's bid specifically references a proposal to lease space at New London State Pier "for the purpose of fabricating components for the Revolution Wind project's foundations."
"Deepwater Wind will also commit to entering into a Host Community Agreement with the city of New London to provide the funds for economic and community development," the proposal states.
Vineyard Wind's pitch to Connecticut says the company hopes to partner with the state "and pursue strategic opportunities for using infrastructure in Connecticut to maximize in-state economic benefits."
"Vineyard Wind's discussions with the Connecticut Port Authority have confirmed that the ports of New London and Bridgeport have the potential to be used to support the marine construction activities of our project," the company wrote in its proposal. Vineyard Wind, which proposed a $5 million grant to the port authority if selected, said both ports would be appropriate for staging components prior to load-out.
Bay State Wind's proposal highlights two "primary harbor locations" — the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal and a redacted Connecticut port — for its Connecticut offshore wind project. Bay State Wind said Orsted's marine and port officials have made several visits to "an ideal candidate" in Connecticut that "enjoys significant indigenous advantages that position it to become a central hub for the offshore wind industry in the northeast."
The three Connecticut competitive bids redact information related to pricing and direct impact on ratepayers.
Bates said he could not specify a time frame or provide details but the board would issue a request for proposals to operate State Pier "very soon." He said port officials hope to partner with the private sector and "make investments that make us even more attractive than we are today."
"From our perspective, we're looking at making important investments in the State Pier complex," he said. "We're open to hosting wind power companies and if they're looking at it on the merits, New London is the place to be."
New London Mayor Michael Passero said city officials have held frequent talks with offshore wind developers, particularly Deepwater Wind and Bay State Wind.
"The New London Harbor has some natural benefits to these companies," he said Wednesday. "We are meeting with them and we have a partnership with labor that's going to be necessary to do it. We want to make sure we do everything we can to maximize the opportunity to benefit New London."
Rhode Island, Massachusetts lead the way
Vineyard Wind's 800-megawatt wind farm and an electricity transmission project will deliver power to Massachusetts by 2021, the company said.
"Vineyard Wind is proud to be selected to lead the new Massachusetts offshore wind industry into the future," Vineyard Wind CEO Lars Thaaning Pedersen said in a statement. "Today's announcement reflects the strong commitment to clean energy by Gov. (Charlie) Baker and the Massachusetts Legislature."
Deepwater Wind's project for Rhode Island could start construction by 2020 and be operational by 2023.
"Rhode Island made history when we built the first offshore wind farm in the United States," Raimondo said, referencing the Block Island Wind Farm. "Today, we are doing it again. This new, large-scale offshore wind project will bring clean and low-cost power to Rhode Islanders and further diversify our energy resources — all while adding good-paying jobs to our growing economy."
John Humphries of the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs said Wednesday that while he hadn't studied the out-of-state proposals, "any/all of them could have substantial impacts throughout the region, as the developers line up facilities to meet their needs."
Emily Lewis of the Acadia Center, which advocates for renewable energy, applauded Massachusetts' and Rhode Island's push for offshore wind.
"Today's announcement should inspire all northeast states to set their own offshore wind commitments, and states with existing processes should keep things moving forward," Lewis said.
Lewis noted New York had committed to producing 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, and New Jersey has called for projects totaling 3,500 megawatts by 2030.