BOSTON (SHNS) – As lawmakers weigh whether to up the amount of offshore wind power Massachusetts must procure, a Wakefield-based offshore transmission company is making a push for lawmakers to also require the state to solicit bids for independent offshore wind energy transmission.
Teaming up with officials from business and development groups, Anbaric this week launched a new website and began running digital ads to call for “early action on an offshore transmission system to minimize impacts on fisheries and the environment, reduce costs, and achieve decarbonization goals.”
“Massachusetts needs transmission infrastructure now that can optimize connections to the grid and efficiently serve multiple wind farms,” Stephen Conant, an Anbaric partner and project manager, said. “Unless the industry addresses transmission, offshore wind projects could run into roadblocks on the grid that have caused onshore wind projects to fail and solar energy projects to suffer significant delays.”
The Baker administration and Massachusetts utilities have already contracted with two developers — Vineyard Wind and Mayflower Wind — to generate a cumulative 1,600 megawatts of clean energy from wind farms planned for waters south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. If both projects come to fruition as expected, state officials have said they would provide “approximately 12 percent of total Massachusetts annual energy demand.”
Last year, the Department of Energy Resources floated the possibility that Massachusetts could stop soliciting clean energy generation and the transmission of that energy as a single package and instead move forward with a solicitation for a central transmission system that future generation projects would be required to tie into. Having one primary transmission system would have “the potential benefit of minimizing impacts on fisheries, optimizing the transmission grid, and reducing costs,” the report concluded.
But in a letter to key lawmakers in late July, DOER said it now recommends that Massachusetts abandon the idea of getting bids for independent offshore wind energy transmission, which was met by stiff opposition from some offshore wind developers. DOER said in July that it had investigated the idea but “finds that the costs and risks of a solicitation for independent offshore wind energy transmission outweigh the potential benefits that could be captured by 1,600 MW of transmission capacity allowed under the Act, and therefore has decided not to require the Massachusetts [electric distribution companies] to pursue such a solicitation at this time.”
Anbaric, which has filed a federal application to develop its own offshore wind transmission system, commissioned the Brattle Group to conduct a study of a proposed planned transmission approach to offshore wind for southern New England.
Using a planned transmission approach rather than individual generator lead lines from each offshore project would lead to a 10 percent reduction in overall transmission costs, 49 percent less undersea cable, 40 percent less energy lost in transmission and optimized utilization of each of the limited locations at which offshore wind power can be brought onto shore, the Brattle Group said its report found.
“If we wish to achieve a low-carbon economy by mid-century, then transmission is as important as generation and ought to be considered on its own terms,” Eric Hines, a Tufts University structural engineer who designed the Wind Technology Testing Center in Charlestown and has advised the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center on aspects of the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, said.
Massachusetts is on a path towards requiring net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. At the end of July, the House and Senate began conference committee negotiations on major climate policy legislation including each branch’s calls for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Both branches of the Legislature have also approved language requiring the executive branch and utility companies to procure even more offshore wind power than the 3,200 megawatts already in the pipeline.
The House unanimously backed an amendment to its climate bill that would boost the state’s total authorization to 3,600 MW and also shorten the maximum amount of time between procurements from 24 months to 18 months. Meanwhile, the Senate unanimously adopted an amendment to its economic development bill to direct DOER to procure another 2,800 MW of offshore wind power by 2035, which would bring the state’s total authorization to 6 gigawatts.
Anbaric said the procurement of 6 GW of offshore wind power “could result in as many as 15 separate cables from individual wind farms unless action is taken soon to develop transmission separately to connect the full amount of renewable energy to shore.”