Capturing wind to power our future

As a Waterford resident, I’m proud that State Pier in New London is going to serve as the launching pad for an offshore wind farm to be built by Vineyard Winds. The windfarm will be off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard and is projected to produce 800 megawatts of energy (1 megawatt equals 1,000,000 watts of energy). Connecticut is slated to receive 300 megawatts from this farm.

Better still, Connecticut lawmakers are seeking to expand the state’s clean energy portfolio further. A bipartisan bill just passed into law will provide offshore turbines capable of producing 2,000 megawatts of energy — enough to replace the Millstone power plant, which could face retirement in 10 years.

Southeastern Connecticut is already known for its maritime economy, such as the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, submarine base and submarine manufacturing. The presence of turbines about 50 miles off the Connecticut coastline is an opportunity to establish a new industry that can become another source of pride and identity for Connecticut citizens.

Offshore wind is a good fit for this region, an industry that belongs alongside the Coast Guard and General Dynamics. All three industries are aquatic. More significantly, they’re all vital to the security and stability of the nation. If we are to reduce the catastrophic effects of a changing climate, it’s critical that we immediately begin our transition to clean, sustainable energy.

The science behind climate change is clear and unequivocal: we have only a decade to aggressively cut carbon emissions. We’re currently burning our way towards an atmosphere that’s more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was prior to the Industrial Revolution. A few degrees may sound insignificant, but even this much warming will swamp coastlines, trigger devastating droughts and fuel mass migration — just to name a few consequences.

The good news is that even though Connecticut is a small state, we have an opportunity to become a leader in the development of offshore wind, and by extension, a leader in the fight against climate change. According the U.S. Department of Energy, United States offshore wind has the potential to generate nearly twice the amount of electricity currently consumed by the nation. As Matthew Morrissey of Ørsted U.S. Offshore Wind noted, the waters off southern New England can be considered the Saudi Arabia of wind power.

Offshore wind represents Connecticut’s best option for creating an alternative, sustainable power grid. Our coastline is so densely populated that we lack the space needed to build solar or traditional land-based wind farms. And while it is encouraging to see an increasing number of buildings equipped with solar panels, that individualistic approach is more expensive and far more haphazard than a centralized energy farm. Nor is importing renewable energy from faraway installations a long-term solution. Doing so creates logistical issues and requires additional energy just for transportation.

Our community can become a gateway when it comes to offshore wind production. The oceanic winds are as much an energy resource as their carbon emitting counterparts. Until we start harnessing the winds, we’re wasting that resource.

It’s encouraging that state lawmakers are taking the initiative to make use of this resource. At the same time, its crucial that Connecticut continues to aggressively pursue this avenue. The implementation of these wind turbines is a slow process, requiring extensive planning and numerous permits. Given the rapid onset of climate change, time is one resource we desperately lack.

Tennyson Benedict is a University of Connecticut Law School student.

 

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