Since Dec. 12, 2016, when the four of five offshore turbines at Block Island Wind started spinning (the fifth briefly malfunctioned and was soon fixed) the 30-megawatt electricity producer has been the only commercial wind farm in operation in the coastal waters of the United States.
But that could change quickly… or slowly.
Sixteen projects slated for the Eastern Seaboard from North Carolina to Massachusetts are now on the books at the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management — known familiarly as BOEM — in various stages of planning and approval.
For many states on the East Coast, offshore wind is integral to plans to achieve “carbon neutral” energy production.
In the case of Connecticut, in September 2019, Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order mandating that the state end its dependence on fossil fuels for its energy supply by 2040. For Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, the goal is 2050. In Virginia, it’s 2030.
Among several companies working through the lengthy application and permitting process, Vineyard Wind, a renewable energy development partnership with offices in Boston and New Bedford, has already taken a leading role in Connecticut’s energy plans.
Big steps and little steps
In a possible breakthrough, on June 12, with the release of a supplement to a draft environmental impact statement, BOEM advanced a $2.8 billion, 800-megawatt, 84-turbine project, known as Vineyard Wind I, into a required 45-day public comment period before federal environmental approval. The process will include five online public meetings.
Developers claim that the wind farm, located in a wind lease area off Martha’s Vineyard, will generate “cost-competitive energy” for more that 400,000 customers across Massachusetts.
That project had been delayed since last August when BOEM withheld a key permit approval, expected last July, citing the need for an additional environmental review. The project was scheduled for completion in 2022.
On Friday, another Vineyard Wind project, the 804-megawatt Park City Wind project based out of Bridgeport, came before the Public Utilities Regulatory Agency, or PURA, for a three-hour public hearing that was continued in executive session during the afternoon.
“The project will produce significant economic development benefits to [Bridgeport], including $890 million of project expenditures in Connecticut, almost 3,000 direct jobs and the saving of $2.2 billion to ratepayers over the life of the project,” said Alan Hannah, deputy CEO of Vineyard Wind, during the PURA zoom meeting on Friday.
In December 2019, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection selected the Park City Wind project over two other bidders — Mayflower Wind and Constitution Wind — for the next phase of renewable energy projects for the state. That decision trimmed expectations for a possible wave of economic development for southeast Connecticut from renewable energy.
The turbines will be located in the federally-designated 160,000-acre lease area OCS-A 0501, located on the outer continental shelf south of Martha’s Vineyard.
In a 2019 white paper touting offshore wind development, Tony Appleton of Burns McDonnell, an engineering, construction and environmental consulting firm, based in Kansas City, Missouri, divided potential ports vying for slices of wind energy into four types: ports with manufacturing facilities, ports that manage construction, ports where turbine components are assembled and ports for ongoing operations and maintenance.
According to Appleton, “Size, location, depth and the ability to handle the weight of equipment” are all key considerations as various ports along the Eastern Seaboard compete for more or less lucrative roles in an industry estimated in a 2019 report by University of Delaware’s Special Initiative on Offshore Wind at 20 gigawatts of energy production worth $70 billion.
Clearance is another key factor. Many ports along the Eastern Seaboard are constrained by bridges with vertical clearances lower than the latest turbine technology that is assembled on land and shipped upright at a height of 850 feet for installation.
With open access to Long Island Sound, Bridgeport will meet many of the criteria for offshore wind once it is redeveloped.
Vineyard Wind plans to locate an operations and maintenance hub at Barnum Landing, an 18.3-acre industrial waterfront parcel in Bridgeport, in partnership with McAllister Towing and Transportation Co., Inc., a company specializing in marine transportation. The property is also expected to be used as a turbine assembly and staging area that will include steel fabrication.
State Pier in New London is similarly unconstrained and could serve as a base for turbine manufacturing or assembly.
East Coast projects
In addition to State Pier, Ørsted and Eversource have a number of other 50/50 ventures in the works, including Revolution Wind that will provide 400 megawatts to Rhode Island and 304 megawatts to Connecticut, and South Fork Wind, a 132-megawatt project, located 35 miles east of Montauk Point on Long Island. Another 50/50 venture is Sunrise Wind, an 880-megawatt project, also located east of Montauk Point, with support from Con Edison and New York Power Authority.
With the support of the Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), Ørsted is also developing Ocean Wind, a “utility scale” 1,100-megawatt project, to be located about 15 miles off the coast of southern New Jersey.
Ørsted also boasts Skipjack Wind Farm, a 120-megawatt project located 19 miles off the Delaware-Maryland-Virgina coast, “coming online at the end of 2023.”
Ørsted is also supporting the engineering procurement and construction of two 6-megawatt wind turbines, part of the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project owned by Dominion Energy.
In development as 50/50 ventures between Ørsted and Eversource are Bay State Wind, a 2-gigawatt project to be located 25 miles off the south coast of Massachusetts, and Constitution Wind, specified for 65 miles off the coast of New London.
In a joint venture, Ørsted and PSEG also formed Garden State Offshore Energy, LLC in 2007, which holds the BOEM lease OCS-A0482, a 96,000-acre site.
In Massachusetts, Mayflower Wind Energy LLC, a joint venture of Shell and EDP Renewables, won the rights to the lease area OCS-A 052 in December 2018. The company’s bid for a 804-megawatt project was accepted by Massachusetts in a second round of offshore bidding.
Equinor, an energy company headquartered in Norway, is developing Empire Wind, an 816-megawatt project 20 miles south of Long Island, as well as Beacon Wind, a 128,000-acre lease in the federal waters off Massachusetts.
In Maryland, U.S. Wind, which is owned by the Italian firm, Renexia S.p.A., and a subsidiary of Toto Holding Group, is developing Marwind, a 248-megawatt project about 20 miles east of Ocean City.
As these energy projects get underway, various states are competing for opportunities in the offshore wind energy supply chain along the so-called “East Coast Wind Belt.”
The New Jersey Wind Port, a recently announced state plan for “a purpose-built 200+ acre development project” aims to position the state “as a hub for the US offshore wind industry.”
The two-phase project will designate 30 acres on the eastern shore of the Delaware River for a turbine assembly and staging area, with an additional 25-acre component manufacturing site and another 160 acres for marshaling and manufacturing space.
In October 2019, Vineyard Wind announced a partnership with Marmon Utility LLC to create the first Tier 1 offshore wind supplier in the United States. In the agreement, Seymour-based Marmon will invest up to $4 million in equipment upgrades and personnel to manufacture Kerite cables for the Park City Wind project.
Vineyard Wind has committed to selecting the Kerite brand for at least 50 percent of the project.
“The partnership between Vineyard Wind and Marmon Utility to establish the first American Tier 1 Offshore Wind Supplier in Connecticut is an incredible opportunity for the state to truly develop a world-class offshore wind industry,” boasted Vineyard Wind CEO Lars Thaaning Pedersen, in a release. “Today’s announcement is an exciting step in the right direction but it is only the beginning. Similar to the aerospace sector, we believe that manufacturers all over the state can be a part of this emerging industry, creating long-term jobs and economic opportunity for Connecticut residents.”