NEWS: Mass. Getting Back Into the Offshore Wind Game? Plus, Strong Winds in Texas and Elsewhere

Posted by Lexie Briggs on May 6, 2016 10:56:21 AM


American offshore wind has been just over the horizon for years, but it wasn’t until recently that we could point to real, tangible movement. Last summer, off the coast of Rhode Island, Deepwater Wind “broke water” on a relatively small demonstration project. In July, the company delivered the foundations that will eventually support five wind turbines about 12 miles from the Rhode Island coast. As Deepwater prepares to kick off their second construction season, we find ourselves asking, wait… Wasn’t Massachusetts supposed to win the race for offshore wind?

It turns out Massachusetts isn’t taking this lying down. Bloomberg reports that state lawmakers are currently drafting a bill that could require Massachusetts utilities to purchase power from offshore wind farms, possibly to the tune of 2,000 MW, over the course of the next decade. Building out the capacity would cost about $10 billion, according to a BNEF financial analyst.

A quick refresher: There currently are no offshore wind farms in the U.S., and no plans (as far as we know here at Advanced Energy Perspectives) of a transcontinental power line stretching under an ocean to Europe or Asia, where offshore wind is thriving.

“This bill would be the last piece of the puzzle to get the industry going,” said Thomas Brostrom, general manager of North America for Dong Energy A/S, the world’s largest offshore wind developer.

Dong Energy proposed a wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts last year, in an area pre-approved by the Interior Department and adjacent to a site targeted by Deepwater for a wind farm much larger than its Rhode Island demo project. Offshore MW also has a federal lease in the area. These three developers would be likely beneficiaries of – or competitors for – the utility contracts that would be authorized by the legislation. (Once the bill is introduced, PowerSuite users can track its progress on BillBoard.)

“We have the opportunity to create an industry,” Mass. state Sen. Marc Pacheco, a legislative champion of offshore wind, said in an interview. “We have the opportunity to create thousands of jobs and create a whole supply chain.”

While offshore wind has had a tough time getting started in the U.S., the rest of the world has proven the concept time and time again – according to Utility Dive, global offshore wind now has an installed capacity of 11,000 MW and is expected to more than double over the next three years.

Meanwhile, onshore wind continues to break records. Utility Dive reports that wind had its strongest Q1 since 2012, installing 520 MW of new capacity, thanks in part to extenders to the investment tax credit and production tax credit passed in last year’s omnibus bill. Texas wind has broken through already this year, following December’s record-breaking 40% of all electricity demand met by wind energy for 17 straight hours. In February, ERCOT recorded another record-breaking number: 45.14% of Texas’s electricity supply powered by wind. Since installations in the Lone Star State were responsible for more than half the wind capacity built in Q1, we are very likely going to see that benchmark broken time and again.

And it’s not just Texas. A new infographic from AWEA points out nine instances of record wind output in February alone; ERCOT is just the largest one. (Everything is bigger in Texas.)


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Topics: News Update