Lack of New England transmission 'tilts the field towards offshore wind'

Lack of New England transmission
'tilts the field towards offshore wind'

Lack of transmission infrastructure in New England is throttling onshore wind development and tilting the playing field towards offshore, says an official at the region’s grid operator.


A big pipeline of onshore wind projects is under development across northern New England, particularly northern Maine, with Iberdrola, EDP Renewables (EDPR) and NextEra hoping to tap the growing demand for renewable power in population centres such as Boston.

In Maine alone, 3.6GW of onshore projects are in the interconnection queue, more than five times the state’s current installed capacity.

Some of these developments — like the 600MW King Pine that Pattern Development acquired from SunEdison this month — may soon secure an off-taker as part of the tri-state request for proposal.

But the bigger picture for onshore wind in the region is “kind of gloomy”, claims Theodore Paradise, assistant general counsel for operations and planning at ISO New England, which operates the power grid for the region's six states.

Little transmission infrastructure exists in the parts of Maine most attractive to wind developers, and the existing power lines connecting the state to southern New England are “largely exhausted”, Paradise told an industry conference.

Permitting and financing enough transmission capacity to accommodate significant new onshore wind capacity in the gas-reliant northeast is “not impossible, but I think it’s challenging”, he added.

However, Paradise sees “an emerging good news story for wind development” in the region: offshore. “We’re starting to see an emerging opportunity that doesn’t have the incredible barrier of onshore wind’s [transmission] cost.”

Look at Boston, where “there’s a lot of load and some good offshore wind. That starts to sound hopeful, because you’re no longer talking about hundreds of miles [of power lines] and billions of dollars of investment.”

Paradise’s view points to a growing tension between onshore and offshore developers in the northeast, where electricity prices are high, ageing generation capacity is coming off line and consumers are demanding more renewables.

By the end of July, Massachusetts’ legislature will unveil an energy bill expected to contain a large carve-out for offshore wind, with Dong Energy, Deepwater Wind and Blackstone-backed OffshoreMW among the top contenders to bring projects forward.

While the cost of offshore wind has been prohibitive in the past, the picture is changing thanks the economies of scale and know-how coming out of Europe, Paradise says.

“Europe is kind of like the friend you have who goes out and gets the iPhone 6 right when it comes out and pays full price for it,” he said. The US, by contrast, is the “cheap friend” who waits until the costs have come down before buying the new technology.

Many in New England’s onshore wind sector feel they are being unjustifiably overlooked in favour of offshore, which has a single project under construction in the US, and for large-scale hydro, which would be largely imported from Canada.

“I think there’s still a lot of opportunity in onshore — it’s a lot less expensive, even with the transmission,” said Stephen Conant, senior vice-president for project development at Anbaric, which aims to build a 1.2GW subsea power line to flow onshore wind and hydropower from Maine to southern New England.

Massachusetts’ push to buy offshore wind is “as much about economic development” as about buying competitive power, Conant says.

Anbaric’s decision to flow power beneath the Gulf of Maine is driven in part by the permitting challenges that would come with building onshore lines.

For some onshore wind developers facing transmission constraints, the solution may be teaming up with hydro generators, says Jeff Bishop, senior director for government policies at Canada’s Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners.

Brookfield has partnered Transmission Developers, EDPR and Iberdrola Renewables to develop a mega-transmission project running from Quebec to New York City, accommodating 600MW of wind farms to be built in upstate New York and hydropower from existing Canadian plants.

By “firming” the wind with hydropower, transmission costs can be cut by two thirds, Bishop says.

“You’re bringing in clean energy, firm capacity, and the independent system operator can dispatch it pretty much like natural gas or any resources. We think that’s a really, really good product.”

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Comment by Eric A. Tuttle on July 26, 2016 at 2:15pm

Normal consumers would want to use less, if the cost per unit were lower when conserving as was once tried back around the 80's.

However after that cycle of conservation the rates seemed to have climbed again because the Utilities were selling less power. Eventually the industrial rates doubled rather rapidly as I remember the first jump going from .05/kWh to .08/kWh for the place I was employed as an Electrician. All we seemed to have done was cut our use so that they had it available to sell elsewhere with the increased rates... A boon in profits for a while at least. People finally said Why? It's Pointless ! But yet the Politicians, the PUC and utilities essentially colluded and though the corrupted shifted in and out of the arena the Aim of Corporate Utilities is to sell, baby sell.... Grab the land and controls over that land (or under it in some instances) by whatever justifications that can keep the people feeling they are being served.

I agree that the Wind should go out to sea, but there are those wealthy 1%er's to contend with that do not want them in sight either. Much like the (temporary) drilling rigs that were going to go off the coast of Florida for the Massive Natural Gas reserves within the U.S. boundaries of the Bermuda Triangle. Enough to supply this Nation for the next century. The cost of an extension cord to these wind farms at sea, at distances of 5 miles or greater from one of Maine's most outer Islands may be cost prohibitive as another reason to stay inland.

Solar at sea, another great Idea, with much the same restrictions. Not so much visually however a slight sea mist covering the panels could reduce the efficiency by 10% with a heavy water coating even greater. Micro dust particles already reduce efficiency here on land, though we tend to think they are clear of any dusts or particles. "Those Pesky Water spots!"


Comment by Penny Gray on July 26, 2016 at 11:54am

Is it the consumers who are demanding more renewables, or the politicians and wind developers?  Why would consumers want to pay more for an intermittent and unreliable power source that can't be dispatched to the grid?  By all means float these things off shore and float all those solar panel farms off shore as well. Right off shore of the big cities where the power is being used.  Portland could become known as "The Greenest City in America", with hundreds of massive turbines and their flashing red lights visible for miles and miles out to sea.  Don't know how the fishermen or whales will feel about this but where there's a subsidy, there's a way!

Comment by Eric A. Tuttle on July 25, 2016 at 2:14pm

To me this is but another excuse to build yet More Transmission Lines, which are being designed to interconnect with future Wind and Solar power farms.  The 5.2 Billion dollar MEPCO line that was recently completed contained a Pittsfield "Dog Leg" turn from what should have been a straight path. It was admitted that the turn was for "Future Buildout". Something that had been in the planning prior to permitting for that construction. Now they plan to hook up to that Location with yet another expansion to serve "Wind" from Aroostook county with another MEPCO venture and looming in the background is a CMP plan to hook in at the same point with a futureline heading up into Maine's western Mountains close to the Coburn Gore area.

It is strange that these new proposals, combined with the Consolidated Line to Calais, exept for 37 miles approximates the envisioned path of Peter Vigues proposed East West Corridor.

First an Energy Corridor under the authority of FERC, should Maine's legislature not accommodate them, then onward to a future Highway and Oil Pipeline to Irving ?

He, Mr. Vigue did say "It will be built"!

More land grabs of Maine for the use and needs of non-Mainer's yet again. Are we a plantation for other states ? We are soon to become one if we do not get this madness under control.

Hannah Pingree on the Maine expedited wind law

Hannah Pingree - Director of Maine's Office of Innovation and the Future

"Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine."


Maine as Third World Country:

CMP Transmission Rate Skyrockets 19.6% Due to Wind Power


Click here to read how the Maine ratepayer has been sold down the river by the Angus King cabal.

Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT


(excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010 Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?" Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.”

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