Investment in New London key in Deepwater Wind offshore wind pitch

New London — Block Island Wind Farm developer Deepwater Wind says its proposal to inject offshore wind power to the state includes a $15 million investment in the Connecticut Port Authority to help create a manufacturing and deployment hub in the region.

A week after winning Rhode Island's offshore wind bid but losing one in Massachusetts to New Bedford-based Vineyard Wind, Deepwater Wind Vice President Matthew Morrissey said Tuesday in an interview with The Day's Editorial Board that the firm has shifted its strategy to heavily focus on Rhode Island and Connecticut.

As developers compete to deliver thousands of megawatts of offshore wind power to a half-dozen states on the East Coast, Morrissey echoed port, city, environmental and labor leaders who've cited New London's prime location, skilled workforce and lack of height restrictions as assets that could drive jobs and development in the region.

Deepwater Wind's proposed $15 million investment would help "the state and New London punch above its weight in future offshore wind deployment," Morrissey said. "The supply chain at a certain point in Europe will reach an economic threshold where it just makes sense to start manufacturing in the U.S."

Deepwater Wind's proposed port investment matches an influx of $15 million for New London State Pier upgrades announced by Gov. Dannel Malloy on Tuesday. Morrissey on Tuesday said he had heard of potential state investments in the pier, but that he was unaware of the governor's proposal.

If selected, Deepwater Wind plans a host city agreement with New London, which Morrissey described as "a very significant number" to fund economic and workforce development.

"The overall objective is to see industrial development, project after project over several years," he said.

Substation assembly, steel fabrication possible for New London

The Block Island Wind Farm included many parts made in Germany and France barged to Rhode Island for post-fabrication work in the Port of Providence and the Port of Davisville in Quonset, R.I. 

Morrissey said Deepwater Wind could assemble the wind farm's substation and perform secondary steel fabrication, such as welding ladders and rails, in New London. Components shipped into New London for assembly or fabrication could end up in wind farms in federal waters off other states.

The company plans to start construction in 2021 and deliver power by 2023. The 25-turbine wind farm would be in federal waters about 15 miles south of Martha's Vineyard. Morrissey said Deepwater Wind is considering newer designs such as 8-, 10- or 12-megawatt turbines compared to Block Island Wind Farm's 6-megawatt turbines.

The wind farm interconnection is planned for the industrial park in Davisville, R.I., where Deepwater Wind also proposes storing wind power in two 50-megawatt hour Tesla Powerpack battery systems "to firm up our delivery during peak periods," Morrissey said.

Deepwater Wind would lease space at the 22-acre State Pier terminal from a yet-to-be-named operator. The Connecticut Port Authority expects to issue a request for proposals to run the port "very soon," according to port board Chairman Scott Bates.

Morrissey said Deepwater Wind wants to partner with the University of Connecticut at Avery Point to let maritime science students participate in the project.

Asked about pricing in potential 20-year contracts with utilities, Morrissey said he could not provide details as Deepwater Wind remained in competition in Connecticut with Vineyard Wind and Bay State Wind.

Morrissey said costs have declined globally due to increased competition and an uptick in projects as states look to ramp up renewable energy production.

"People think about offshore wind and they think of enormously high costs for this stuff. That's just not the case any longer," he said. "People are not going to be paying enormous premiums and the impact to the rate base across all of Connecticut is just not going to be what the critics say."

He said Deepwater Wind hoped to release Rhode Island and Connecticut prices soon, as the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection expects to pick winning bids in early June.

Morrissey touted Deepwater Wind's efforts to include fishermen and environmental, labor, tribal and other groups during construction of the Block Island Wind Farm. Production only occurred, he said, during certain time windows to protect right whale migrating patterns, per an agreement with the Conservation Law Foundation.

He noted the Block Island proposal was initially for six turbines but was reduced to five "in part because of stakeholders that were at the table."

As to some critics of Deepwater Wind's South Fork Wind Farm off Montauk, N.Y., who say they "don't want any turbines in the water ... on that we need to agree to disagree. We're looking to be good neighbors and share ocean," he said.

Three proposals push Connecticut as hub

All three firms vying to provide offshore wind power to Connecticut mention potential for hundreds of new jobs.

A partnership between Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and United Illuminating parent company Avangrid, Vineyard Wind won a Massachusetts bid for 800 megawatts of offshore wind power last week.

In addition to manufacturing in New Bedford for its Massachusetts project, Vineyard Wind has eyed ports in New London and Bridgeport as potential hubs.

Vineyard Wind's Connecticut proposal includes $10 million in grants split evenly between energy-storage projects through the Connecticut Green Bank and capital improvements by the Connecticut Port Authority.

Vineyard Wind spokesman Scott Farmelant said in a phone interview Tuesday that the proposed $5 million investment into state ports was "not only for our product, but so Connecticut ports can participate in the offshore wind industry as it takes shape on the East Coast."

Farmelant added that Vineyard Wind was about six months ahead of competitors in state and federal permitting.

Eversource and Orsted paired up to form Bay State Wind, proposing a 200-megawatt offshore wind farm for the state. Bay State Wind proposed $2 million to the Connecticut Economic Development Fund, $600,000 to scholarships for energy-focused educational programs and a $4 million commitment to support the state's programs for low-income families.

A message left with Bay State Wind was not immediately responded to Tuesday afternoon.

Bay State Wind's proposal highlights New Bedford's Marine Commerce Terminal and a redacted Connecticut port that it described as "an ideal candidate" enjoying "significant indigenous advantages that position it to become a central hub for the offshore wind industry in the Northeast."

b.kail@theday.com

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