Photo: Derrick Z. Jackson

A Great Day for Offshore Wind: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey All Go Big

, Senior energy analyst | May 24, 2018, 2:26 pm EDT
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This post is a part of a series on Clean Energy Momentum

Offshore wind power is a powerful, plentiful resource, but that doesn’t mean that it’s been a slam dunk in terms of getting it into the US electricity mix. Movement forward on offshore wind in three different states, though, made yesterday a day to celebrate.

1. Massachusetts says yes to 800 megawatts

The state we’d been watching this week was Massachusetts. Yesterday was to be the date for an announcement about which offshore wind project or projects had been selected for the first phase of a 1600 megawatt commitment from the state based on a 2016 energy law.

And the day didn’t disappoint. While the law required at least a 400 megawatt first tranche, the state announced that an 800 megawatt proposal from Vineyard Wind was the winner of this round. The larger project likely brought with it some nicely lower pricing, and was a pleasant surprise.

That amount of power (as our handy new offshore wind calculator shows) will generate electricity equal to the consumption of more than 400,000 typical Massachusetts households. It will also, given the electricity mix and what that offshore wind power might displace, reduce carbon emissions by the amount emitted by almost 200,000 cars.

All that requires actually getting the wind farm built and the turbines spinning. But yesterday’s step was an important one.

2. Rhode Island goes for 400 megawatts

Another pleasant surprise from yesterday was the announcement that Rhode Island had taken advantage of the same bid process and selected a 400 megawatt project of its own.

While the announcement was a surprise, Rhode Island’s commitment to offshore wind isn’t. The new project-to-be, from Rhode Island-based developer Deepwater Wind, will build on the state’s (and Deepwater’s) experience with the first-in-the-nation 30 megawatt Block Island Wind Project. And it fits within Gov. Gina Raimondo’s recent call for 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy for the Ocean State by 2020.

Rhode Island has already shown it knows how to get offshore wind done. While the next project will be in federal, not state, waters, that experience is likely to count for something in the race to get the next steel in the water.

3. New Jersey grabs a piece of the limelight

Not to be outdone, New Jersey also used yesterday to move offshore wind forward. Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a 3,500 megawatt state goal that the legislature had recently passed. That’s the largest state commitment to date, and the latest in the crescendoing drumbeat of state action on offshore wind.

And the first tranche of Garden State action may be even larger than what Massachusetts and Rhode Island just moved forward on. Just after coming into office, Gov. Murphy ordered the state’s public utility commission to carry out a solicitation for 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind.

Offshore wind means jobs (Credit: Derrick Z. Jackson).

While megawatts may be the stuff of headlines, each of those projects and commitments is about a lot more—jobs in the near term, and air quality improvements, carbon reductions, careers, and more once the projects are up and running.

What’s next?

All that is particularly true as even more states get into the act. So where should we look next for leadership on offshore wind?

Connecticut could be poised to join its neighbors as it makes decisions about proposals for meeting its own renewable energy needs. The bids included proposals from Vineyard Wind and Deepwater Wind, plus Bay State Wind, the other entity vying for the Massachusetts and Rhode Island attention.

It’s also unlikely that New York is going to stay quiet, given its new offshore wind master plan, a 96 megawatt project planned for off Long Island’s South Fork (also being developed by Deepwater), the record-breaking lease sale off New York City in late 2016, and federal moves to evaluate more potential sites in the New York Bight.

Or we could be hearing more from Maryland, with two projects making their way forward with state support. Or Virginia, with a pilot 12 megawatt project. Or Delaware, or North Carolina, or…

Lots of future to watch—and make happen—even as we celebrate the immediate past. Because, given our need for clean energy and good jobs, and given the incredible potential of offshore wind, we’ll be wanting a lot more days like yesterday.


Photo: Ad Meskens
Photo by Derrick Z. Jackson
Photo: Kim Hansen/Wikimedia Commons

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  • Coffeeguyzz .

    Going to be interesting to observe this going forward.

    Erich Stephans, from Vineyard Wind, has stated his project will cost at least $2 billion.
    That much – for 800 Megawatt nameplate capacity – translates into less than 350 ACTUAL Megawatts if the current Block Island wind farm is a comparable operating example.

    So, 2 billion bucks for a dinky 350 Megawatts. The new Footprint Power plant at Salem Harbor will provide about double that … on demand.

    The massive CCGT plants being built in Ohio and Pennsylvania, like the Lackawanna Energy Center, produce 1,000 to 1,500 Megawatts for 1 to 1 1/2 billion bucks.
    Quadruple the output for way less expense.

    Operating conditions offshore are horrendously costly. Check out the London Array with its large maintenance crews and fleet of boats in contrast with the 30 technicians needed to run a CCGT plant.

    When the PPA is revealed in the coming weeks, the money per kilowatthour that consumers will pay will be face melting.

    As opposition builds in Yarmouth and Barnstable against the cables landing there, as the fisherman start to join with other groups to protect their livelihoods, these boondoggles face a long drawn out, daunting task to ever come to realisation.

    • ucsjrogers

      Thanks for weighing in, Coffee. The 800 megawatts will be 800 megawatts; no need to de-rate them. No power plant operates 100% of the time. And, while it’s not “dispatchable”, one of the beauties about offshore wind is that it has capacity factors that get pretty close to what the average natural gas plant has.

      As for the pricetag, I’d be hard-pressed to find examples of things like this where the initial ones didn’t cost more. The European experience in the last few years (see shows that steep cost reductions are possible with scale and experience.

      And it wouldn’t be right to look only at initial costs, given that any fuel-fired power plants isn’t going to get far without someone shelling out for fuel. That certainly holds for natural gas power plants, in Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, or elsewhere.

      Betting on fossil fuels isn’t going to pay off in the long term, and offshore wind looks like a serious contender to be part of the solution set. Starting off the shores of Massachusetts.

      – John