Offshore Wind Developers Propose Large-Scale MA Projects

Dec 22, 2017

Massachusetts state regulators are reviewing proposals for large-scale offshore wind energy projects after three offshore wind developers submitted bids Wednesday. 

In accordance with a 2016 state law, power companies earlier this year requested at least 400 megawatts of offshore wind energy to help replace retiring fossil fuel power plants in the region. 

Developers Vineyard Wind and Bay State Wind both submitted proposals for a 400 megawatt and an 800 megawatt wind farm, each capable of powering between 200,000 and 500,000 homes.

Erich Stephens, chief development officer at Vineyard Wind, said their bid should be selected because they’re on track to begin construction in 2019 – the earliest construction date that’s been proposed. The wind farm would be operational in 2021.  

Stephens said the earlier the wind farm can start generating power, the better it is for the environment.  

“Arriving earlier, our project would offset over 600,000 tons of carbon each year, and so every year earlier that we can start having those carbon reductions, the closer we can get to fighting climate change,” Stephens said.

Stephens added, as a part of their project, Vineyard Wind would invest $1 million each year into local energy storage projects, which he said are more cost effective and reliable during power outages than battery storage systems located hundreds of miles away from a community. 

Thomas Brostrom with Bay State Wind said their project collaborates with a Danish energy company called Orsted, which launched the world's first offshore wind farm in 1991 and has built 21 others since then.

Brostrom said Bay State Wind has the experience to get this project right. He added they would also invest millions of dollars back into Massachusetts.    

“We set up a number of programs, among others, a $17.5 million program to support, basically, low-income families,” Brostrom said.

Bay State Wind's project would also include a 55 megawatt storage unit, which would be the largest battery storage system ever deployed in conjunction with a wind farm to help ensure power is available during peak hours. The project is also expected to save ratepayers $300 million a year. 

Bay State Wind's turbines are estimated to be spinning by early 2020s. 

Vineyard Wind and Bay State Wind's projects would be built about 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard and about 25 miles off of New Bedford in federal waters. Each developer said the projects would be about 50 to 100 turbines and would bring thousands of jobs to local communities throughout the 25-year life of the wind farms.

Deepwater Wind, however, took a slightly different approach to their proposals. 

The developer, who built the nation's first offshore wind farm about four miles off the coast of Block Island, proposed a 400 megawatt project and a smaller 200 megawatt project, each named Revolution Wind

The 400 megawatt project would consist of 50 turbines and could power 200,000 homes, while the 200 megawatt project would be 25 turbines capable of powering 100,000 homes. 

Matthew Morrissey, vice president at Deepwater Wind Massachusetts, said smaller scale projects give the global offshore wind marketplace time to continue to become less expensive. He said starting small now saves businesses and ratepayers money and allows companies to get better at building efficient wind farms before scaling up. 

Morrissey added their project proposal is more innovative than the others. 

"We are building not just a standalone, one-off transmission system, we’re building an expandable transmission system that anticipates the additional projects that will come after us," Morrissey said. 

Massachusetts state law requires power companies to solicit 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2027. Morrissey said building a transmission system that can expand is another way to save companies and ratepayers money.

Revolution Wind would also include pumped hydroelectric energy storage, which stores power during low energy demand periods to be used later when power is needed most. 

Construction of the project is expected to begin in 2022 about 30 miles off the mainlands of Rhode Island and Massachusetts and about 12 miles south of Martha's Vineyard. Revolution Wind would be completed in 2023. 

Morrissey said the project would bring approximately 2,000 jobs to southern New England and would have a $200 million economic impact. 

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources is expected to select projects for negotiation in April. Final projects are expected to be approved by the Department of Public Utilities next summer.