PORTSMOUTH – Born out of the state’s biennial budget that went into effect on July 1, New Hampshire’s newly-christened Department of Energy will oversee the state’s development of offshore wind energy in the Gulf of Maine.
The Commission to Study Offshore Wind and Port Development met Monday at the state’s Department of Environmental Services’ regional office at Pease International Tradeport, just its second in-person meeting of 2021.
Chaired by state Sen. David Watters, D-Dover, the commission received public input on its decision to have an independent assessment of the pros and cons of offshore wind energy for New Hampshire.
At the group’s last meeting, Watters said it unanimously approved Gov. Chris Sununu’s call to have an independent assessment of offshore wind energy’s “potential and potential liabilities” for New Hampshire.
The decision came amid the state’s involvement in a tri-state coalition with Massachusetts and Maine through the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, a partnership that is examining potential locations in the Gulf of Maine for offshore wind farms that would require federal approval. That group has not reconvened since December 2019, however, due to COVID-19
Last month, Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed into law a bill from state Sen. Mark Lawrence, D-Eliot, that would create the United States’ first floating offshore wind research program in the Gulf of Maine.
“It seems to be a very timely effort,” Watters said of New Hampshire’s offshore wind actions.
Mark Sanborn, a member of the state’s energy department, said that the state will put together a request for proposals (RFP) to hire an outside contractor who would examine the offshore wind industry’s impact on New Hampshire from economic, energy and environmental standpoints.
The assessment will not make any recommendations, he noted, and will strictly examine the impacts of offshore wind on New Hampshire.
“There won’t be a proposal out of this. The last page of this isn’t going to say, ‘New Hampshire should do this.’ That’s not what this exercise is,” Sanborn said.
By the end of the next month or early September, with an RFP drafted, Sanborn said he expects a six- to eight-week window for consulting applicants to submit their proposals to the state. An evaluation committee comprised of various stakeholders, such as state legislators, members of the New Hampshire Commercial Fishermen Association, the Conservation Law Foundation and more, will be formed to sort through the applicants and choose which consultant will conduct a likely six-month assessment. One stakeholder present Monday evening suggested the assessment also include a state and federal regulatory roadmap showing how the process of implementing offshore wind might work.
At this time next year, Sanborn said, the state will hope to release the consultant’s final report to the public.
“It’s just to give a quick look, based on existing information and the best we can project, on the issues that will directly or indirectly be impacted by the deployment of offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine,” he said.
New Hampshire’s offshore wind industry development director Michael Behrmann suggested that the soon-to-be hired consultant performing the assessment report back to the Commission to Study Offshore Wind and Port Development as the assessment progresses.
“I think that would be useful for the commission to kind of understand that progress update at some point,” he said.
After a meeting with Rep. Chris Pappas on Tuesday, June 1 at the New Hampshire State Port Authority discussing offshore wind, Behrmann said tens of thousands of jobs could be created in the predevelopment, construction and operational phases of offshore wind energy in the Gulf of Maine. Construction of an offshore wind farm in the Gulf of Maine likely wouldn’t occur for another seven years, he estimated.
Notable examples of offshore wind farms include the $2.8 billion Vineyard Wind Project off of the Massachusetts coastline and the 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island, which became America’s first offshore wind farm when it was created in 2016.
New England for Offshore Wind estimates that New Hampshire has the capability for 3.4 gigawatts of potential offshore wind energy functions off its coastline.
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