The operator of the nation’s largest power grid has begun assessing the cost to integrate offshore wind and other renewable energy into its grid, a cost that could approach $3.2 billion for five coastal states, including New Jersey.
The initial study by PJM Interconnection aims to provide the states with rough estimates of the price of realizing their decarbonization goals, at least the cost of ensuring the electric grid can accommodate the power produced by offshore wind and solar. The five states hope to build a projected 14,268 megawatts of offshore wind through 2035. In addition, the grid is expected to absorb more than 33,000 MW of new solar.
The advisory study, however, only focused on onshore transmission costs, ignoring the expenditures it will take to bring power from the offshore wind farms New Jersey and other states are developing to the onshore electric transmission system. The study also did not include an analysis of new transmission that might be necessary in the future.
“By synchronizing the planning of its coastal states’ offshore wind deployment, PJM is able to identify transmission solutions that could present a more efficient and economical path to achieve their offshore-wind policy objectives than if each state integrated offshore wind generation completely independent of one another,’’ the study said.
The study focused on PJM states in coastal areas: Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia. The study assessed various scenarios for different capacity totals, ranging from 6,416 MW to 17,016 MW of offshore wind connecting to the grid under one short-term scenario, modeled out to 2027, and four other scenarios, modeled out to 2035.
The cost estimates to upgrade the existing transmission system ranged from $627 million in the short-term scenario and $2.2 billion to $3.2 billion for the long-term analyses. The study identifies costs and location of upgrades, but not ratepayers responsible for those costs.
Offshore wind for NJ
In New Jersey, the state wants to build enough offshore wind capacity by 2035 to deliver 7,500 MW, which would power 1.5 million homes. The state has approved three offshore wind farms to date, expected to provide 3,758 MW. Ørsted is building two of the projects off Atlantic City. Atlantic Shores, a project developed by EDF Renewable and New Shell Energies, is the third, also off the resort city.
In the state’s Energy Master Plan, offshore wind is projected to produce 27% of the electricity New Jersey needs by mid-century. Offshore wind is a key component of the Murphy administration’s plans to transition to 100% clean energy by midcentury.
The state plan relies even more on solar energy, projecting it will account for 34% of New Jersey’s electricity by 2050.
The aggressive clean-energy agenda is widely supported, but some critics question why the administration has not been more transparent about what it will cost; the bulk of the move to clean energy will be paid for by utility customers.
“There’s a lot of stuff that’s going to be built and means more jobs, but that also comes at a cost,’’ said Paul Patterson, an energy analyst at Glenrock Associates in New York. “The cost is going to be borne by the ratepayer.’’
New Jersey’s three approved offshore wind projects are not expected to be operational until 2025 when Ørsted’s 1,110-MW Ocean Wind project is expected to come online. The other two projects are expected to come online later in decade. None of those costs will be borne by ratepayers until they begin operation.
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