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Offshore wind farm, Mersey Estuary, off Liverpool, North West England; Irish Sea off Liverpool

Competition for grid capacity in America's race for ocean power.

Coastal state collaboration ensures American offshore wind is blowing in right direction.

The offshore wind energy revolution has arrived on American shores. In a short period of time, Massachusetts and other East Coast states have shown serious commitments of global leadership in offshore wind renewable energy production by embracing offshore wind energy. An unintended consequence of these commitments is that states now find themselves having to compete for the grid capacity to transmit the offshore wind energy they will produce for their residents.

In August Massachusetts’ energy officials announced they want to increase the state’s offshore wind commitment with its second procurement of an additional 1.6 gigawatts, making Massachusetts the first state to embrace a second round of electricity procurements from offshore wind.

The race for ocean power is one of the most important marathons the United States must run to strengthen our environment, our economy and our job growth. Competition among U.S. states is not a hinderance, but a group of states united, with a common goal through cooperation will result in an American offshore wind industry that supports all Americans.

During the next two decades, East Coast states and California will have over two-dozen offshore wind farms under development in various stages. Today the U.S. has one offshore wind farm consisting of five turbines, compared to Europe’s 4,543 grid-connected offshore wind turbines across 11 countries. Through the state’s commitments, the US has shown that it will play a critical role in the global renewable energy marketplace - but we have work to do if we wish to ascend to a top leadership position in the new and growing global offshore wind market.

The Business Network for Offshore Wind released a report to help states, like Massachusetts, win the national, homegrown race for energy that we will be proud of and will make a huge difference for more affordable and cleaner energy.
With the help of over 100 offshore wind experts, the Network’s Leadership 100 report focuses on the challenges facing the industry with recommendations to conquer them. 

The challenges include uncertainty of future capacity within the industry’s supply chain, cost controls, and the challenge of competition and cooperation among states. Another challenge, one of the most pressing, is the limitation of certain U.S. resources, such as transmission lines.

Massachusetts is seeking to become a champion for transmission solutions sooner rather than later. That’s good news.

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) is pushing for a 2020 solicitation to construct a transmission line to serve new wind farms. DOER correctly argues that an independent transmission line will “minimize environmental impacts” versus many different lines built by each wind farm. Potentially, this can provide access to multiple offshore wind farms, expedite the process for future wind developers to connect to the grid, and assist in the balance of renewable energy delivery to users, all of which could lower the cost to the Massachusetts rate payers.

The Networks report includes recommendations for Massachusetts and other offshore wind states for advancing grid and transmission projects, developing an industry road map to launching a public engagement campaign.

On all of the above, the Network is advocating that States active in offshore wind collaborate with each other. For example, similar to the Massachusetts proposal, New York is accelerating its goal for ocean power from 2,400 megawatts (MWs) to 9,000. The Northeast grid will be challenged in capacity to go beyond 4,000 MWs. If the problem is left unaddressed, the offshore wind energy market could be held back, and policy makers’ clean energy targets may slip. So, the Network is calling on states to come together, define the problem and jointly find solutions. The industry will need governments’ help to develop a consensus path forward. States and industry should enter into a constructive dialogue to coordinate a grid and transmission strategy. The Network is proactively helping to accelerate this initiative!

If we make the grid happy, the industry can lower costs and make ratepayers happier.

Massachusetts has the right frame of mind. In addition to solid plans for training American workers on offshore wind production and technology, Massachusetts also has put into place the first port in North America to support offshore wind projects. The New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, a 29-acre super-heavy-lift facility, was designed to be a critical link in the deployment chain for offshore wind project development, and is one of the U.S. industry’s chief assets in the drive to build an offshore wind marketplace.

All of these worthy investments and accomplishments will benefit not only Massachusetts residents but all Americans. The offshore wind supply chain has the potential to reach every state, even land locked states, and every American wants an American industry operated with American content, intelligence and know-how. Let the race for ocean power begin. Let’s all be on the same team.

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