Hartford – State regulators on Wednesday tapped Block Island Wind Farm developer Deepwater Wind to bring offshore wind power to Connecticut.
One of three firms that submitted bids to the state in April, the Providence developer says it will invest at least $15 million into the Connecticut Port Authority for infrastructure upgrades that officials say could help State Pier become a hotbed of offshore wind activity.
“We have an obligation to our children and grandchildren to invest in energy projects that reduce the impacts of harmful emissions,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in a statement announcing winning bids in the state’s clean energy auction. “That’s why Connecticut is making investments in the technologies of the future, not of the past.”
The 200 megawatts of offshore wind to Connecticut will come from Deepwater Wind’s Revolution Wind project, a 25-turbine wind farm in federal waters south of Martha’s Vineyard. The company plans to start construction in 2021 and deliver power by 2023.
State and local leaders say New London’s prime location, skilled workforce and lack of height restrictions could boost manufacturing and development in the region as states along the East Coast look to inject offshore wind power over the next 20 years.
Deepwater Wind officials say workers could assemble the wind farm’s substation and perform secondary steel fabrication, such as welding ladders and rails, in New London. Components shipped into New London for assembly or fabrication could end up in wind farms in federal waters off other states.
“It’s a huge day for Connecticut and its efforts to promote clean energy,” Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said Wednesday in a phone interview. “The most immediate thing we’re going to do is find an office in New London and open up shop.”
Deepwater Wind says the project will bring hundreds of jobs to the state and provide power for lower prices than what critics expect. While pricing details for Connecticut won’t be released until 20-year contracts are reached with Eversource and United Illuminating, Grybowski said that, because of the scope of the project and declining costs, “the pricing will be dramatically lower than what we’ve seen” at Block Island Wind Farm, which was 24 cents per kilowatt hour in its first year.
In 2016, the average retail price of electricity in Connecticut was third highest in the nation, at 17.24 cents per kilowatt hour, according to data the U.S. Energy Information Administration released in January. The national average is closer to 10.4 cents per kilowatt hour.
In a conference call with reporters, Mary Sotos, deputy commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said the state could not provide specific price data or average bid prices “due to confidentiality and the small number of bidders. We’re pleased to see the competition that we saw.”
Sotos added that Deepwater Wind submitted “a more detailed plan for how to use Connecticut’s labor and other resources.”
“Price is weighted heavily,” she said. “But I think what we found compelling was the $15 million investment in the State Pier, allowing substantial parts to be constructed in New London … as well as contracting with Connecticut-based boat builders.”
Contracts should be sent to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority by October, Sotos said.
City, state leaders tout potential economic development
Deepwater Wind plans to sign a host community agreement with New London, which would include what Vice President Matthew Morrissey described as an investment in the city to fund economic and workforce development.
“Mayor Michael Passero and his team have been extremely aggressive in marketing the city’s downtown industrial assets,” Morrissey said. “They have presented not just an open door for business but a very clear vision about the role that this project and future projects that would come to New London would play in the larger maritime economy.”
Felix Reyes, New London’s director of the Office of Development and Planning, said he and Passero had met with Deepwater Wind officials on several occasions prior to Wednesday’s announcement and developed a relationship. Reyes said the company could become an important economic driver in the city.
“That’s what got us excited,” Reyes said. “They’re a big company and we have to take advantage of their presence here.”
Passero said city officials were confident Deepwater Wind was “going to be a great partner.”
“All of our conversations with Deepwater Wind have been waiting for this moment,” he added. “Now we’re really ready to get into the weeds and roll up our sleeves. There’s a lot of other stakeholders that have to be brought into this.”
Passero noted a mix of fishermen, suppliers and labor and trade groups have participated in recent local sessions on offshore wind development.
“Connecticut today is showing the region that it wants to participate in the budding offshore wind market and will share in the benefits of being an early mover in adopting this technology,” said Emily Lewis of the Acadia Center, which advocates for clean energy.
John Humphries, of CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs, said, “Whether it’s on the docks, in the water or on the factory floor, Connecticut has the skilled labor needed to jumpstart this new industry bringing clean energy to the region.”
Deepwater Wind pick follows $15M state investment
Deepwater Wind’s selection comes two weeks after Malloy announced a $15 million state investment at State Pier for infrastructure improvements and to help ready the pier for future use by the burgeoning offshore wind industry.
Recently selected as Rhode Island’s offshore wind developer, Deepwater Wind beat out pitches to Connecticut made by New Bedford-based Vineyard Wind and Bay State Wind, a joint venture between Orsted and Eversource. Massachusetts picked Vineyard Wind for an offshore project last month.
The Revolution Wind project will be paired with a transmission backbone developed along with National Grid Ventures.
“We are excited for the continued growth of the offshore industry in the U.S. and are proud to advance a clean energy transition for the good of customers, local communities and the environment for generations to come,” Will Hazelip, National Grid Ventures vice president, said in a statement.
The wind farm interconnection is planned for the industrial park in Davisville, R.I., where Deepwater Wind also proposes storing wind power in two 50-megawatt hour Tesla Powerpack battery systems “to firm up our delivery during peak periods,” Morrissey said.
In addition to offshore wind, Malloy and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Klee announced that the state procured more than 50 megawatts of energy from four fuel cell projects and 1.6 megawatts in an anaerobic digestion facility in Southington.
“Offshore wind, anaerobic digestion and fuel cells are the clean, resilient, and diverse energy sources that our state and nation need,” Klee said. “Connecticut is showing the rest of the nation what the future of clean energy looks like.”
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