From turbines to homes, wind power is coming to Connecticut

Workers on the jack-up construction vessels Brave Tern and L/B Caitlin prepare to install the final blade on the the fourth of the five power generating wind turbines as part of the Deepwater Wind project three miles south of Block Island on Aug. 15, 2016. The Block Island Wind Farm developer says by late 2023, electricity will make its way to Connecticut from up to 25 wind turbines of a new project in federal waters about a dozen miles southwest of Martha's Vineyard. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Workers on the jack-up construction vessels Brave Tern and L/B Caitlin prepare to install the final blade on the the fourth of the five power generating wind turbines as part of the Deepwater Wind project three miles south of Block Island on Aug. 15, 2016. The Block Island Wind Farm developer says by late 2023, electricity will make its way to Connecticut from up to 25 wind turbines of a new project in federal waters about a dozen miles southwest of Martha's Vineyard. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

New London — First, find an office in New London. Next, hammer out commitments with city and port officials. And then, eventually — after Deepwater Wind checks off a yearslong to-do list including financing, contracts, permitting and construction — deliver offshore wind power to Connecticut.

The Block Island Wind Farm developer says by late 2023, electricity will make its way to Connecticut from up to 25 wind turbines in federal waters about a dozen miles southwest of Martha's Vineyard. Part of the proposed 75-turbine wind farm dubbed Revolution Wind, the project also will send power to Rhode Island, which like Connecticut recently tapped Deepwater Wind in a renewable energy auction.

The power will travel from an offshore substation at the windfarm — constructed at an upgraded New London State Pier, Deepwater Wind executives say — to a cable buried about 6 feet under the seabed by National Grid Ventures. That 30-plus-mile cable likely will connect to a substation at the Port of Davisville in North Kingstown, R.I., according to Deepwater Wind.

Concrete padding will cover the cable at any points where it can't be buried at the ideal depth. Deepwater Wind Vice President Matthew Morrissey said these instances likely would be rare; he said only about 1 percent of National Grid's Sea2Shore cable from Block Island to Narragansett, R.I., needed such padding.

At the Port of Davisville, the electricity will be injected into the regional power grid managed by ISO New England, an independent nonprofit that coordinates the region's flow of electricity.

Contracts between Deepwater Wind, Eversource, United Illuminating and National Grid will ensure the wind farm's power is channeled by ISO New England into Connecticut and Rhode Island. The states procured 200 and 400 megawatts of electricity, respectively, but Morrissey noted that Revolution Wind could expand in the future.

"Opportunity for incremental growth is fundamental for industrial-scale technology," Morrissey said. "We can provide power to different markets in the northeast ... by essentially growing the wind farm."

Adam Camp, business development manager for National Grid Ventures, said, "we are working with Deepwater Wind on some preliminary engineering on the cable and facilities."

Having shared infrastructure for both states "is great not just from an economics perspective but from a permitting and siting aspect as well," Camp added.

Deepwater Wind's contracts with utilities in Connecticut must be approved by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, which will offer ratepayers and the public opportunities to comment. Negotiations haven't begun yet, but officials tentatively expect the contracts and the PURA process to play out through early 2019.

Permitting, financing, construction

Long before construction, Deepwater Wind must apply for an array of state and federal permits and ensure compliance with Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which leases federal waters to developers.

BOEM requires extensive geophysical and archeological surveys. BOEM contracts also stipulate that construction schedules must not impede right whale migration patterns, and vessels must maintain certain distances from a range of wildlife, including sea turtles.

This fall, Deepwater Wind will begin survey work in advance of submitting permitting applications. The permitting process will begin about a year from now and take almost two years, Morrissey said.

Deepwater Wind, owned by investment firm D.E. Shaw, then will work toward financing the project, Morrissey said. He added the company would seek a business energy investment tax credit but no government subsidies.

Contracts with construction teams, suppliers and vendors will be signed at the point of financial close. The company anticipates starting construction in 2021, with the project deployed over two construction seasons: first the foundations and substation, then the wind turbines, cabling and testing.

Deepwater Wind proposed to perform secondary steel fabrication, such as welding ladders and rails, at State Pier.

The company pledged to invest $15 million into the Connecticut Port Authority to help ready New London for assembly and fabrication of components that could end up in Revolution Wind or wind farms off other states.

Gov. Dannel Malloy, who last week signed bills requiring greater reliance on renewable energy and sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, also announced a $15 million investment in State Pier.

"The storied port of New London is currently an active, deepwater industrial port, and leaders seek to ensure that it remains one," Morrissey said.

Morrissey said the company likely won't make a final decision on foundation types until 2019 or 2020. Foundations likely will be put in place in the latter part of 2022, Morrissey said.

Deepwater Wind plans to erect Revolution Wind's turbines, which are more than 600 feet tall, in 2023. Executives project the wind farm will be operational later that year.

While Deepwater Wind's proposal included 8-megawatt turbines made by Siemens Gamesa, Morrissey noted the company was reviewing "a range of turbines ... between 8MW and as large as 12MW."

The developer also committed to picking a Connecticut boat builder to construct its large crew transfer vessel (CTV), which will transport personnel to the wind farm during construction and maintenance.

Next year, Deepwater Wind likely will issue a request for qualifications, followed by a detailed request for proposals for CTV construction.

Fixed pricing, no escalators, in utilities contracts

Deepwater Wind says it's too early to share the total projected cost of Revolution Wind. The state also chose not to reveal proposed electricity rates, or even average prices among three offshore wind bidders in the renewable energy auction.

Confidential information for winning bidders will become public 90 days after contracts have been executed and approved.

But Deepwater Wind contends that global reductions in development costs will lead to lower electricity rates than with its Block Island project, the first offshore wind farm in the U.S.

Also, Connecticut chose a fixed-price option proposed by Deepwater Wind, not a contract that escalates over time. In Block Island, the first-year pricing was 24.4 cents per kilowatt hour, with a 3.5 percent annual bump in a 20-year contract that inspired legal battles.

"We analyzed every bid and every price option and made the selection based on that analysis," DEEP spokesman Chris Collibee said Friday.

Market signals 'setting the stage'

The Block Island Wind Farm, which is five 6-megawatt turbines, cost $300 million to build and turns a profit, Deepwater Wind says. While debate continues about its pricing and overall impact, analysts and advocates say the project helped blow the doors open to a burgeoning industry along the East Coast.

As of June 2017, offshore wind developers have gained control over 18 swaths of federal and state waters, according to the most recent market report by the U.S. Department of Energy.

"After years of regulatory planning and leasing, confidence in the nascent U.S. offshore wind market is increasing and industry activity is accelerating," the DOE reported. 

BOEM has raised $68 million in revenue from 12 offshore wind lease areas after competitive auctions. The revenue goes into the U.S. Treasury, BOEM spokesman Stephen Boutwell said.

In Massachusetts, where regulators recently picked New Bedford-based Vineyard Wind to deliver 800 megawatts of offshore wind power, BOEM anticipates leasing two more offshore areas, Boutwell said.

Boutwell added that "collaborative and inclusive" feedback from the industry and public has inspired BOEM to reshape wind areas up for leases.

"We're looking to our stakeholders on what BOEM should be aware of, and other uses of ocean we should be aware of when making determinations for what could be wind energy areas," he said.

Five years ago, Deepwater Wind paid BOEM more than $3 million to lease two areas totaling 164,000 acres that include the Revolution Wind area. It makes annual rent payments to BOEM of about $3 per acre; once the wind farm is operational, Deepwater Wind will pay annual operation fees partly based on how much of the lease area produces power.

Deepwater Wind soon hopes to begin permitting for its 90-megawatt South Fork Wind Farm to provide power to Long Island, and also plans a 120-megawatt project about 20 miles off Maryland, the Skipjack Wind Farm.

The DOE said developers are emboldened not only by the Block Island Wind Farm but by active interest by major offshore wind and oil developers, and declining costs in Europe, which has employed offshore wind for two decades. Supply chain expansion and legislative backing also are pushing the market, DOE said.

"These positive market signals are potentially setting the stage for large-scale offshore wind development across the country, from Massachusetts to Hawaii," the report said.

While President Donald Trump has proposed propping up unprofitable coal and nuclear power plants, his administration, including Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, also backs offshore wind development and research.

The industry's growth extends to the West Coast, Boutwell said. The deeper waters in the Pacific Ocean — not as suitable for fixed bottom structures — have helped ramp up interest in floating foundations for turbines.

"We're working closely with the state of California to determine a path forward," Boutwell said.

Equinor, formerly Statoil, completed the world's first floating windfarm in 2017, with five turbines floating off the northeastern tip of Scotland.

b.kail@theday.com

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