Eversource is spending $225 million in a wind power partnership to move more quickly into offshore projects in New England, the utility announced Friday.
The utility, which operates electric and gas systems in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, is buying a 50 percent stake in Ørsted’s Revolution Wind and South Fork Wind Farm projects in the Atlantic Ocean and a 257-square-mile tract off Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
“We think it’s the future in this region,” said Lee Olivier, executive vice president of enterprise energy strategy at Eversource.
Natural gas is the largest energy use in New England, accounting for 45 percent of all sources, according to ISO-New England, the region’s grid operator. One-third is nuclear, 12 percent is hydro and 10 percent is from renewable energy such as wind power. Coal, an increasingly unpopular form of energy because of concerns over carbon emissions, accounts for less than 1 percent of energy in New England.
As aging nuclear plants are shut – Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Massachusetts is set to cease in May and Vermont Yankee was ended in 2014 – policymakers will look for energy sources that emit no carbons.
Wind power is seen as that choice, and it’s being helped by falling prices, said Thomas Brostrom, president of Ørsted North America. The company is based in Denmark.
The industry has “taken off” since about 2000, he said. Turbines are generating twice to three times the megawatts as they once did and large companies are stepping in with investments, he said.
“States like Connecticut are opening their eyes to what the technology can do,” Brostrom said.
The Malloy administration last June directed the state’s first purchase of offshore wind power, joining Connecticut with southern New England’s drive to generate wind power from the Atlantic Ocean. Six projects selected by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection include 200 megawatts of offshore wind from Deepwater Wind, which Ørsted purchased in October. It’s harnessing wind power off Block Island and Massachusetts.
Olivier said the wind power expansion will benefit New London and the State Pier, which is being used as a transit point for wind turbines and components.
“We think when you look at the proximity where much of offshore wind will be developed, it’s a good opportunity to bring the future into new London,” he said. “It’s a real advantage for developing wind in the Northeast.”
The State Pier in New London needs a major investment, but it offers a deep-water port that provides “easy in, easy out” access, Olivier said.
The state has recently committed more than $30 million for renovations including stormwater treatment and drainage improvements, upgrades to increase the port’s ability to handle cargo and other changes.
The wind power industry has pledged $22.5 million for investments in the State Pier, Scott Bates, chairman of the Connecticut Port Authority, said recently. Ultimately, $100 million will be needed for fuller upgrades, he said. The Port Authority and other backers of the ports at Bridgeport, New Haven and New London will look to the General Assembly for funding through approval of bonds to borrow money for capital improvements, he said.
The Eversource-Orsted partnership includes Revolution Wind, a 700-megawatt project about 15 miles south of Rhode Island, which will deliver 400 megawatts to Rhode Island and 300 megawatts to Connecticut. In total, 420,000 homes and businesses will be served.
The partnership also includes South Fork Wind Farm, about 130 megawatts and 35 miles east of Long Island. It will generate enough energy to power more than 70,000 homes on eastern Long Island.
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