Offshore Wind’s Next Steps: 6 to Watch For

May 28, 2019 | 4:22 pm
Photo: Ad Meskens
John Rogers
Energy Campaign Analytic Lead

Things certainly aren’t dull in the world of offshore wind these days. Between new legislation to kick-start offshore wind markets, new bids to meet states’ demand for projects, and new markets getting set to open up, momentum just keeps building. Here are six near-term things I’m watching for.

1. New York’s first 800 megawatts

The journey of 9,000 megawatts, it might be said, starts with the first 800. Thanks to Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Empire State has the most ambitious target in the nation, and is working to live into that goal. That included issuing a request for proposals (RFP) for the first 800 or so megawatts late last year, with bids due in February.

Developers responded in a big way, with four proposing a total of 18 projects. Any one of those developers would bring some serious overseas experience to bear on the US market.

Decisions about which project or projects to go forward with could come out as early as this week, so I’m definitely watching for those.

2. A 2,000-megawatt target in Connecticut

Photo by Walt Musial / NREL

The Constitution State’s house of representatives earlier this month passed a bill, in strong bipartisan fashion, to have the state contract for up to 2,000 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind. Now it’s up to the senate, where a vote could also happen this week.

Gov. Ned Lamont, who recently announced a $93 million public-private partnership to upgrade New London’s port to handle offshore wind, is poised to sign the 2,000-MW mandate when the senate does its thing. Stay tuned.

3. New Jersey’s first 1,100 megawatts

Meanwhile, just down the coast, the Garden State has been busy re-building offshore wind momentum since Governor Phil Murphy came into office in January 2018. That has included NJ issuing its own RFP in January, to find the first 1,100 of the state’s 3,500-MW target.

As in NY, the NJ RFP attracted strong interest from international players, with bids from three developers. And, as in NY, a decision about the first project(s) could be coming any day now.

4. Massachusetts’s next 1,600-megawatt pull

The Bay State was the first out of the gate with a big legislative pull, putting in place a 1,600-MW requirement in 2016. A follow-on 2018 law asked Governor Charlie Baker’s administration “to investigate the necessity, benefits and costs of requiring distribution companies to conduct additional offshore wind generation solicitations of up to 1,600 MW,” and execute if things look good—in other words, to bring the state’s total up to 3,200 MW.

We and many others weighed in during that study, and it’s due to be wrapped up and presented to the legislature shortly.

5. Massachusetts’s next 800-megawatt bid

Meanwhile, Massachusetts’s first 1,600 MW chunk is moving along, with near-term things-to-watch-for of its own. The project selected to satisfy the first 800 MW of that, Vineyard Wind, has recently gotten state approvals for its contracts with Massachusetts utilities, and for the transmission line for connecting to the state’s electricity grid.

And now the RFP for the second half of the first 1,600 megawatts (stay with me now…) is out, released last week. So watch for the bids of up to 800 MW, due in August, and the project selection, ‘long about November.

6. California leases

And, while a lot of the spotlight is on the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, other parts of the country are well worth keeping an eye on, too. California, for example, where the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is looking at three wind areas off the central and northern parts of the state. Fourteen companies have indicated an interest in one or more of those areas.

And, equally importantly, a broad group of stakeholders is engaging to make sure that as offshore wind happens on the West Coast, it’s done right.

And more

Those are six things I’m watching for in terms of offshore wind’s next steps, but this is far from a comprehensive list. Maine, Rhode Island, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, and the Great Lakes, for example, should also be on folks’ radar screens, along with technological developments and happenings overseas.

Because however and wherever it’s happening, offshore wind development is well worth watching.

About the author

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John Rogers is energy campaign analytic lead at the Union of Concerned Scientists with expertise in clean energy technologies and policies and a focus on solar, wind, and natural gas. He co-managed the UCS-led Energy and Water in a Warming World Initiative, a multi-year program aimed at raising awareness of the energy-water connection, particularly in the context of climate change, and motivating and informing effective low-carbon and low-water energy solutions.