Opinion: Offshore wind competition benefits Massachusetts

Filed Under: May 2018 Issue

By Wendy K. Northcross, CCE
Wind energy has powered the Massachusetts economy and commerce for centuries. Given this rich history, it comes as no surprise that today, an offshore wind industry is poised to power the “Blue Economy” movement that leverages water resources to realize sustainable economic growth.
Achieving the full potential of offshore wind in Massachusetts depends on two essential elements: multiple projects must move forward concurrently and the schedule for subsequent power purchase agreement solicitations must accelerate. Th­ese actions provide the best opportunity for the Commonwealth to maximize economic benefits, while growing the industry in a responsible, stable, and incremental but competitive manner.
On Cape Cod, support for offshore wind has not always come easy. But we have learned much, and great efforts have been made to engage the community in a siting process that considers fishing, recreation, transportation, viewsheds, and the natural environment. ­The resulting Federal Wind Energy Area sited more than 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard was molded with community engagement and minimizes these impacts.
For these reasons, support comes naturally for three proposed offshore wind projects. All are competing to provide offshore wind generation as part of the state’s goal to reach 1,600 MW of offshore capacity by 2027.
Vineyard Wind proposes to build and operate a 400 to 800MW project that could power over 400,000 homes while improving the resiliency of the Cape’s historically unreliable electric grid. ­e project has created a $15 million fund to help build a sustainable offshore wind industry in Massachusetts. Th­ese monies would bolster development of supply chain, businesses, and infrastructure. It also would pay for partnerships with community colleges and vocational schools to provide job training programs for local workers. ­The project will have a direct local impact having recently announced plans to open an operations and maintenance facility on Martha’s Vineyard. It even has proposed to support resiliency and emergency planning through distributed storage projects on the Cape and Islands.
Bay State Wind has proposed both a 400 MW wind farm and an 800 MW wind farm with 30 MW and 55 MW battery storage solutions, respectively, which would help ensure power is available during peak hours. Th­ey have entered into an agreement with Massachusetts-based NEC Energy Solutions to create the world’s largest wind paired with energy storage system for commercial-scale energy, which will seek to reduce winter energy price fluctuation. Th­ey have agreements with the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Bristol Community College, the New England Aquarium and other local organizations which total approximately $2.75 million. Additionally, the developer recently announced a commitment to providing over $2 million in grants for research and programs aimed at protecting the region’s fisheries.
Deepwater Wind submitted Revolution Wind, at the mandatory 400MW and at a 200MW sized farm. A partnership with First Light Power, the operators of Northfield Mountain, will deliver 300MW of hydroelectric pumped storage capacity – the world’s largest pairing of pumped storage and offshore wind. National Grid Ventures is Revolution Wind’s transmission partner for developing an expandable transmission system. Deepwater Wind has committed $1 million to Massachusetts Maritime Academy to support economically disadvantaged students, $1 million to UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science and Technology to study the interrelationships between commercial fishing and offshore wind, to build crew transfer vessel in the Commonwealth, and to use New Bedford as a port of operations.
Given the promise of these plans, it is critical for Massachusetts to show its seriousness by supporting the nascent industry’s growth, so it does not become overshadowed by development activity under way in New York and other states on the Eastern Seaboard. Selecting multiple projects from the start, and then taking additional bids every year thereafter would send this message, support continued industry growth, and ensure competition and best prices for everyone.
By ensuring robust competition and diversity in the offshore wind industry from the start, the Commonwealth will pay decades worth of dividends into the state’s economy long after the first turbines are spinning.
Wendy Northcross is Chief Executive Officer of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce and a Certified Chamber Executive.