Breaking into the US energy market, offshore wind developers strive to please all

Source: By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive • Posted: Friday, August 10, 2018

  • As offshore wind prices continue to fall, developers in New Jersey strive to submit pilot programs at the lowest costs, while developers in Massachusetts adjust plans to ensure that other stakeholders, such as fishermen, are not upended by larger projects.
  • EDF Renewables North America and Fisherman’s Energy announced on Monday that they jointly applied to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) for an offshore development off the coast of Atlantic City that could be up to 25 MW. BPU had rejected two earlier versions of the project based on the high cost that would be passed on to ratepayers.
  • Bay State Wind, a venture owned by Eversource and the international offshore wind developer Ørsted, released a statement on Monday about reconfiguring its proposed wind farm layout, south of Martha’s Vineyard, based on feedback from the fishing community. The company still seeks a buyer for its power and plans to submit construction and operation plans to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in early 2019. Orienting turbines from east to west would allow mobile-gear fishermen to move with ease through the lease areas, although the nearby Vineyard Vines project is configured differently and was also designed to be friendly to the fishing industry, the Cape Cod Times reports.

U.S. offshore wind advocates see great potential in a technology that has grown rapidly in Europe and offers hope to a region like the Northeast, which is seeing high and rising electricity prices and is trying to overcome cold-weather constraints on its natural gas supply. Still, developers have a lot of stakeholders to win over: from federal and state agencies, to tourism and fishing industries.

As momentum builds for more projects, offshore wind developments and solicitations “will snowball pretty quickly” in the Northeast, according to Tim Olson, policy and research manager at the American Council on Renewable Energy. All it takes is time to build certain channels that make “the next time around” easier, he told Utility Dive.

While New Jersey doesn’t have any offshore wind farms yet, Democratic Gov. Chris Murphy’s administration set the most ambitious goal of any U.S. state — 3,500 MW — to help attract developers.

“A lot of the companies you see there [in Europe] are now moving in to the U.S.,” Olson said. “They see these states taking aggressive mandates for projects, but also just costs are coming down when you start hitting scale.”

Unfortunately, the state’s BPU has yet to approve a small demonstration project from which developers and regulators can learn best practices. EDF and Fisherman’s must establish to the state agency that their Nautilus Project offers additional net benefits to the state, such as job creation, at a reasonable price to electric consumers.

This creates a similar paradox to the early adoption days of onshore wind and solar, Olson said. A new, smaller project is more expensive as it has not achieved economies of scale and it carries more risk. A bigger project, like the 800 MW Vineyard Wind project in Massachusetts, disclosed a much lower price than seen in the past at $0.089/kWh, but a larger project like that is a risky investment without the established regulatory know-how and experience of developing a pilot.

“It’s just taken time,” Olson said.

Under the recent filing, average-sized households will have to pay a cost comparable to a cup of coffee per year, according to a statement by Doug Copeland, EDF regional development manager.

The public version of the application, including other figures, will be available once BPU deems that the application is complete. EDF anticipates the determination within two weeks.