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    Sunday, April 21, 2024

    Ørsted pitches offshore wind project for State Pier in New London

    Tower sections for wind turbines at State Pier in New London on Sept. 6, 2023. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    New London ― Ørsted, the Danish energy company staging offshore wind projects at State Pier, announced Wednesday it has pitched a proposal for its biggest U.S. wind farm to date with New London as its base.

    Ørsted submitted a proposal for the 1,184-megawatt Starboard Wind to both Connecticut and Rhode Island as part of a three-state wind solicitation in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island that was due Wednesday.

    The Danish wind giant was one of four companies to announce bids in the tri-state solicitation. Avangrid, SouthCoast Wind and Vineyard Offshore also made proposals as part of an auction in which the three states combined could enter power purchase agreements of up to 6,800 megawatts of offshore wind power.

    Vineyard Offshore, partnered with Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, submitted a proposal to all three states for the 1,200-megawatt Vineyard Wind 2. That project would be located 29 miles south of Nantucket in Massachusetts, and would be staged in Salem, Mass., and have a grid connection in Montville by way of New London, the company said in a statement.

    Avangrid, a member of the Iberdrola Group, has two proposals totaling 1,870 megawatts: the 791-megawatt New England Wind 1, formerly known as Bridgeport-based Park City Wind, and the 1,080-megawatt New England Wind 2. Avangrid is spearheading the development of the Vineyard Wind 1 project, which is currently under construction and will deliver power to the Massachusetts grid.

    SouthCoast Wind said it plans to develop an offshore lease area in two phases with the potential to generate more than 2,400 MW of wind power, enough to power more than 1 million homes, in a lease area 30 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and 20 miles south of Nantucket.

    Ørsted said it planned to use State Pier for staging and assembly of its new wind farm, which would power up to 600,000 homes. Ørsted and partner Eversource have already committed to using the newly revamped State Pier, which it leases, for work on three offshore wind projects. The 12-turbine South Fork Wind project in New York is already completed and State Pier is now prepping for Revolution Wind, which will be the first to deliver power to Connecticut.

    “The (Starboard Wind) project would bring nearly $420 million of direct investment and expenditure to Connecticut, driving in-state and regional job creation while bolstering State Pier’s key role in the U.S. offshore wind supply chain,” Ørsted said in a statement.

    Wednesday’s deadline for the bids was a cause for celebration by environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, whose members gathered at Muddy Waters Cafe on Bank Street for a pep rally of sorts in a city now known as the epicenter of the state’s offshore wind industry.

    News of Ørsted’s proposal had not been announced at the time of the morning gathering at Muddy Waters.

    “This is really the moment that we’re making a big transition. Offshore wind is really the largest source of renewable energy we have available. We’re excited,” said Samantha Dynowski, state director of the Connecticut chapter of the Sierra Club.

    Connecticut has a goal of decarbonizing its electricity grid by 2040. Dynowski said the more than 50 aging fossil fuel power plants in the state present an opportunity to transition to renewable energy as those power plants go offline.

    At the moment, the state has just one contract for offshore wind power. That contract is with Ørsted and Eversource for a 304-megawatt portion of the 704-megawatt Revolution Wind offshore farm now under construction and whose turbines will soon be assembled and shipped from State Pier.

    The state hasn’t gone out to bid for new offshore wind projects since 2019 when the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection chose Park City Wind and a proposal to build a 804-megawatt wind farm off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Avangrid, the developer of the project, pulled out of that contract because of soaring costs that have hit the offshore wind industry over the past year. Other companies has followed suit, blaming rising interest rates and supply chain issues.

    New guidance on the federal tax credits available for offshore wind farms announced last week have advocates optimistic that offshore wind companies now have better incentives to build their projects. Earlier this month, Ørsted and Eversource secured federal approval for Sunrise Wind, a 924-megawatt offshore wind farm in New York that is expected to provide power to 320,000 homes in that state.

    Connecticut, in this latest procurement for offshore wind power, can decide to secure up to 2,000 more megawatts of power. The state has also teamed up with Massachusetts and Rhode Island through a memorandum of understanding signed last year that is the first of its kind in the country. Under terms of the agreement, offshore wind companies were encouraged to make multi-state proposals.

    The state is expected to announce selected projects in August. Further details of the Starboard Wind proposal were not immediately available.

    “What’s at stake is up to 6,800 megawatts of clean renewable energy, more than triple of what’s already in the pipeline,” said Charles Rothenberger, climate and energy attorney for Save the Sound, an environmental group.

    That amount of energy, the total possible between all three states, will power millions of homes and is equivalent to taking 3 million cars off the road, Rothenberger said.

    The multi-state agreement, Rothenberger said, has a requirement for developers submitting bids to pledge funding toward an environmental mitigation fund that also benefits commercial fishermen. That agreement is for $5,000 for every kilowatt of power, he said.

    New London Mayor Michael Passero said the $300 million public-private partnership spent to rehab State Pier, despite angst over cost increases and delays, appears to have been a sound investment by Gov. Ned Lamont considering the potential work the site could host in coming years for the burgeoning offshore wind industry.

    After the news of Ørsted’s bid was announced, Passero said in a statement that “New London is the Northeast’s offshore wind hub, and Ørsted is a large part of the reason why.”

    Ulysses Hammond, the interim executive director of the Connecticut Port Authority, said Wednesday that New London’s port remains attractive to offshore wind developers not only because of the public-private partnership that led to infrastructure improvements, but because of its close proximity to federal lease areas and lack of obstructions, such as bridges, to the pier.

    As part of the bid for Starboard Wind, Ørsted said in a statement that it planned to fund a range of community investments and partnerships in the state, “including $50 million to support the state’s workforce and supplier diversity, inclusive workforce training, innovation, higher education and research, environmental justice, and biodiversity.”

    David Hardy, chief executive officer of Ørsted’s American division, said in a statement that it considered Connecticut a “critical hub” in the U.S. offshore wind market “thanks to its early investments and foresight.”

    g.smith@theday.com

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