Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Advocates Seek More Momentum for Massachusetts Offshore Wind

Clean energy advocates say offshore wind is not being taken seriously enough as an option amid discussions of transmission lines and natural gas pipelines.

Block Island wind-farm (Image credit: Walt Musial | NREL ) Click to Enlarge.
Coastal Massachusetts is blustery enough that a robust offshore wind system could power a residential and commercial electricity load that is 20 times larger than exists today.

That math, highlighted in an advocacy group’s recent report, has some clean energy backers questioning Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s pursuit of Canadian hydropower to meet state renewable energy targets.  The transmission lines needed to bring that hydropower to Massachusetts have faced strong opposition in neighboring states.

Ben Hellerstein, state director of Environment America, which produced the report, says hydropower offers a “comfort factor” to an administration, leading legislators, utilities, and big businesses more at ease with an incremental approach to weaning the state of fossil fuels.

“Saying that offshore wind is unproven is an outdated way to think about it,” Hellerstein said in an interview.  “Their thinking hasn’t caught up to reality.  Both wind and energy storage are advancing very quickly.”

In 2016 Baker signed a bipartisan measure green-lighting the procurement of 9,450,000 MWh of clean energy annually.

Clean energy advocates are elated that the law opened the way for bids on 1,600 MW of offshore wind.  But they are disappointed that Baker opted for 100 percent hydropower to fulfill a separate call for 1,200 MW of clean energy.

More local offshore wind, they say, would better mesh with Massachusetts’ ambitious goal to curb greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.

“The bottom line is, we have this tremendous clean energy resource right off our coast,” Hellerstein says.  “The sooner we tap into it and the bigger the scale means bigger benefits for our environment and our health.”

Connecting with hydropower generated by Hydro-Quebec requires construction of a lengthy, land-based transmission line.  Last month, the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee rejected the Baker administration’s first choice, the 192-mile Northern Pass project proposed by Eversource Energy partly because it would have cut through the state’s iconic White Mountains.

A second option, the New England Clean Energy Connect, is under permit review now.  That 145-mile transmission line would run from the Canadian border to a Lewiston, Maine, substation.  Central Maine Power, part of Avangrid, also partnered with Hydro-Quebec on this project.

Read more at Advocates Seek More Momentum for Massachusetts Offshore Wind

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