September 8, 2013

Wind, hydro power in mix as Patrick heads to Quebec meetings

By Andy Metzger/State House News Service | Posted Sep 07, 2013 |

State House – As hydroelectric power talks proceed up north, Massachusetts could one day lose out to Rhode Island in the race for the country’s first offshore wind development.

“I don’t think anybody’s first until the project is completed,” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan told the News Service. He said the state has done “absolutely everything in its power and abilities” to help the Cape Wind project and it is “on a good path.”

Deepwater Wind, a Rhode Island company, says it could begin transmission construction in 2014 and offshore construction in 2015 for the Block Island Wind Farm, a project that with 5 wind turbines 5 kilometers offshore of Block Island is much smaller than Cape Wind’s 130-turbine endeavor in Nantucket Sound, miles from the shores of Cape Cod.

“Cape Wind and Deepwater Wind are both ‘in the running’ for building America’s first offshore wind farm, we think we will be first and they think they will be first. It is a good natured ‘competition’ the reality is we both wish each other well because our success will help them and their success will help us,” Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers told the News Service by email. “We are just in the early stages of launching the U.S. offshore wind industry and at this stage getting ‘steel in the water’ is incredibly important. So no, there is no concern at either company that the other’s moving forward would have any negative effect.”

Gov. Deval Patrick will be in Quebec this weekend with Assistant Secretary of Renewable Energy Steven Clarke attempting to advance talks about bringing Canadian hydro electricity to New England.

“Having large-scale hydro be a part of that clean energy mix … is important and it is timely to have that discussion now,” Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard Sullivan told the News Service. He said hydroelectricity is a “relatively small percentage of the Massachusetts power mix” now.

Patrick and Canadian premiers began talks a few years ago about adding hydro power to Massachusetts, Sullivan said.

“All the governors have been extremely cooperative around the issue of regional procurement and regional energy,” Sullivan said. He said, “Transmission becomes part of all those discussions.”

Entergy announced in August it would decommission the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, and on Friday the Salem News reported the last shipment of coal had been delivered to a coal plant in Salem, which is going to close, making way for a natural gas plant on the site.

Sullivan said there are coal plants in Holyoke and Somerset, where activists recently went on a week-long march calling for the Brayton Point plant’s closure.

“We’ve been having the discussions in the communities about how they can have a glide-path of what they want the economic development to be if and when those facilities are decommissioned,” Sullivan said. He said, “We would not have the ability to just shut it down.”

Asked about the potential hazards of increasingly relying on a single fuel source – natural gas – Sullivan said adding hydroelectric to the mix would help stabilize the energy supply.

“You always want to have diverse power sources,” Sullivan said.

Deepwater, which won a federal auction to develop a 200-turbine wind farm off the coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, is also part of a planned development in Kingston, R.I., which would hope to serve as a staging area for offshore wind.

New Bedford is also developing a pier large enough to handle the heavy pieces of equipment that go into the construction of an offshore wind farm. Sullivan said New Bedford would be aided by Deepwater’s major offshore project.

“There’s commitments that the company will have to make to both states in terms of economic benefits, and I think New Bedford will be uniquely situated,” Sullivan said. Sullivan said the “next phase” will be the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management putting Massachusetts offshore areas out to bid.

BOEM did not respond to a request for information about the timing and scope of the auction.

Sullivan is still considering running for lieutenant governor.

“I have not made up my mind. I’m having a lot of discussion,” Sullivan said. He said, “I’m keenly aware of the calendar and the clock.”

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