Lawmakers eye 2,000-megawatt offshore wind power buy
New London — As Orsted and Eversource remain at the negotiating table with port and city officials over upgrades to State Pier, lawmakers are following in the footsteps of several Northeast states and pushing for a heavy long-term procurement of offshore wind power.
The Energy and Technology Committee recently agreed to work on legislation that would call for an injection of at least 2,000 megawatts of electricity from offshore wind farms in the next decade, Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, said Tuesday in New London.
The announcement, made at a Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut breakfast, sparked applause led by renewable energy and labor advocates who've been urging the state to take advantage of a burgeoning offshore wind industry that's seen prices drop with increased scale and competition at a time when states are going green. New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Virginia have announced targets of between 2,000 and 9,000 megawatts in offshore wind power in the coming years.
"We need to be a player in the game," Formica said. "We can develop New London and we have an opportunity ... to really focus on this new and emerging industry. Two-thousand megawatts is realistic and I think it sends a clear message that we are ready to jump into this industry and support it with everything that we have."
Connecticut has secured 300 megawatts from Orsted US Offshore Wind's Revolution Wind farm in federal waters south of Martha's Vineyard, scheduled to be operational by 2023. As part of that proposal, Orsted pledged at least $22.5 million in State Pier infrastructure upgrades along with an annual $750,000 investment in the city as part of a host community agreement. The state has agreed to finance State Pier upgrades with at least $25 million, and recently selected pier operator Gateway New London LLC is investing $30 million in equipment and maintenance. Gov. Ned Lamont recently announced the city will share in State Pier revenues over the next two decades.
But city, state and offshore wind leaders say a larger procurement of offshore wind-generated power could help the city and region reap more than a decade of economic development benefits. The move, they said, also eventually could help replace electricity from Millstone Power Station while helping the state hit aggressive targets on greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
"I think it sends a clear and convincing message that Connecticut's serious about wind power," Port Authority Chairman Scott Bates said of the potential procurement in an interview Tuesday. "That kind of signal shows the industry they can make the investments necessary to make New London a wind power hub for a generation to come."
New London Mayor Michael Passero harkened to the Whaling City's past and said "the city is once again ready to host a new energy industry driven by the wind that we hope will prove more sustainable than whale oil."
"The city is encouraged by our new partnership with Eversource and Orsted and we're ready to work with the state of Connecticut to restore this magnificent port to its historic role as the economic engine to this region," he added. "Connecticut needs to join our neighboring states and increase its commitment to offshore wind. Let's close this deal."
Reps. Mary Mushinksy, D-Wallingford, and Joe Gresko, D-Stratford, introduced a bill in January calling on Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to set a goal to procure at least 2,000 megawatts of electricity generated from offshore wind. That bill was referred to Energy and Technology Committee on Jan. 30, and Formica said the potential procurement was one of several concepts raised and unanimously approved last week for further discussion and development into law.
"It could be more than 2,000 megawatts but we'll shoot for that now and see how the industry develops. The committee should have a fairly robust conversation in the coming weeks," Formica said.
Orsted US Offshore Wind Head of New England Markets Matthew Morrissey said Orsted, which built the world's first offshore wind farm, had "learned a great deal about how to inform manufacturing, how to increase standardization, how to ensure safety ... how to ensure costs are continually brought down throughout the supply chain."
Morrissey argued the coalition working toward offshore wind development in the region would create jobs and help the state reach environmental goals while not impeding recreational and commercial fishing and shipping industries.
Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, said the potential 2,000-megawatt procurement would show Orsted the state is committed to offshore wind, which could lead to greater private investment in State Pier. She said it is important to keep ratepayer impact in mind, noting she hopes costs continue to decline.
Lawmakers "will be talking closely with (DEEP Commissioner) Katie Dykes and Lamont's office. We'll see how this plays out," Cheeseman said.