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Connecticut Expected to Increase Off-Shore Wind Contracts

To achieve the 2040 goal of powering all electricity from zero-carbon sources, the state will need to more than double their 2030 goals. Currently, about 65 percent of Connecticut’s electricity comes from zero-emission sources.

(TNS) — More wind farms are expected to crop up off the coast of New England in the coming years after the Biden administration gave the industry a long-awaited boost this week — a move that will help Connecticut meet its clean energy goals and launch a burgeoning industry in the state.

The Biden administration announced it will prioritize an area off the coast of New York for offshore wind projects, fund new port investments, kick off more environmental reviews and take other steps to allow wind projects that have sat on idle to move ahead with a federal green-light.

"This is really, really exciting," said Katie Dykes, state Commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. "Many northeastern states like Connecticut have for years been laying the groundwork for this industry to come online in a meaningful that will combat the climate crisis and spur economic growth. Having a federal partner on this endeavor will unlock many areas of support."

The Biden administration set a goal to develop 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030, which the administration said would be enough to power 10 million homes and cut 78 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Connecticut has its own goal set by the legislature: purchasing 2 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030. But Dykes said Tuesday the state could need more than double that amount if it wants to meet its goal of sourcing all of its electricity from zero-carbon sources by 2040.

"We projected that we could need about 5000 megawatts of offshore wind in total by the time we get to 2040," Dykes said.

That means Connecticut is likely to sign more offshore wind procurement contracts in the next several years. Connecticut has already signed contracts with two offshore wind projects off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts — Park City Wind, which will have on-shore operations in Bridgeport, and Revolution Wind, which will call New London its land base.

Offshore wind energy is expensive, so these investments are not expected to lower rates for Connecticut consumers right away.

There could be big upsides to the state's economy to developing offshore wind, with job creation expected in particular in New London and Bridgeport. But critics also worry about environmental impact of the turbines on wildlife and consequences for other industries.

"It's not often we get the opportunity to get on the ground floor of a brand new industry, especially those that have been successful in other parts of the world," said Rep. Paul Formica, a Republican who helps lead the Connecticut legislature's energy committee and represents part of New London. "But we have to make sure we protect our maritime industries and our fisherman as we are looking for the next generation of energy generation."

By designating 800,000 acres in the New York Bight — a shallow water area off the coast of Long Island and New Jersey — as a priority region for wind turbines, the U.S. Interior Department is allowing projects in those waters to advance, setting up possible lease sales for one or more projects in late 2021 or early 2022.

Avangrid Renewables LLC, based on Orange Conn., has informed the Department of its interest leasing part of the New York Bight.

Avangrid is already a co-developer in the Vineyard Wind project, what's expected to be the first large-scale offshore wind farm in the U.S., located off the coast of Massachusetts. A subset of an area leased by Vineyard Wind is being called Park City Wind and will supply power to Connecticut residents.

Avangrid declined to provide details on its ideas for the New York Bight, but said Tuesday "We look forward to working with the federal government and other key stakeholders as we continue to develop the first commercial-scale offshore wind project in U.S. waters, through our joint venture Vineyard Wind, and additional offshore wind projects to power America's clean energy future."

The Biden administration also announced that it would fund $230 million in grants to strengthen and modernize ports that will support offshore wind infrastructure, make loans available to back the industry and fund more wind energy research and development. Dykes indicated interest in these grants Tuesday to support the state's two deepwater ports in Bridgeport and New London, both of which will be home to offshore wind operations.

The Biden administration also expected to permit wind projects more expeditiously than the previous administration and announced that it will soon conduct several environmental reviews for wind farms.

Collectively, these steps could help the country quickly add more offshore wind farms, particularly along the New York and New England coastline. Only two offshore wind facilities are now standing in U.S. waters.

Connecticut has big plans to tap wind energy as shifts away from fossil fuels. At present, roughly 65 percent of electricity consumed in Connecticut is from zero-emission renewable energy and zero-carbon nuclear sources, according the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. By 2025, 91 of energy consumption in the state will come from those sources, based on contracts the state has already signed, Dykes said.

Those contracts include a deal to buy roughly 800 megawatts from Park City Wind when it is operational in 2025 and about 300 megawatts from Revolution Wind, a project off the coast of Rhode Island being developed by Danish company Ørsted and the state's primary electric company, Eversource Energy.

Lamont personally traveled to Washington, D.C. to court Ørsted as it formed an offshore wind deal with Connecticut. Revolution Wind was expected to be under construction in 2023 and 2024, but that timeline will likely be delayed the companies said Tuesday. It will provide enough power to fuel 350,000 homes in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

"We're proud to be building the first utility-scale offshore wind farms serving New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut, and we stand ready to support the bold path President Biden is charting for a nation fueled by affordable clean energy," Ørsted and Eversource said in a joint statement.

Staging, operations and maintenance for the Revolution Wind Project will take place at the State Pier in New London. Connecticut in 2020 announced a $157 million joint public-private investment with Ørsted and Eversource to redevelop the State Pier and equip it to meet the needs of the offshore wind industry. The pier project is expected to created over 400 construction jobs and sustain 100 jobs thereafter. Construction on the pier will start in 2021.

In Bridgeport, Barnum Landing is slated for a makeover into an offshore wind operations and maintenance area. Construction at Barnum Landing is expected to start in 2023 and offshore construction of the wind turbines for Park City wind in 2024, said Andrew Doba, a spokesman for Park City Wind.

Vineyard Wind has committed to using Barnum Landing for its operations for at least 25 years. Local officials hope other wind projects now in the pipeline will use the Bridgeport and New London ports too.

The New York Bight leases mean more wind farms will be erected not far from Connecticut's shorelines, but it's unclear whether any of them will be able to supply power to the state. That will depend on how the developers and government partners structure transmission lines to move the electricity from the wind turbine to the substation and onto the grid.

State Rep. David Arconti, D- Danbury, said he was disappointed the Biden plan did not also make immediate investments in transmission lines help move power from the numerous wind farms that are in development to states that are not adjacent to the projects.

"It's not pointless but unless there are legitimate blue prints by [the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] to build out transmission system, we're not going to reach full capacity for all this stuff," Arconti said.

Dykes said she believes loans announcements by the Biden administration Monday will support transmission development. The six New England statements are jointly working on plans to bolster a power transmission backbone to support the region.

Formica noted that $230 million to support port infrastructure was "not nearly enough" and he also worried the administration was not spending enough to study environmental effects of wind turbines.

Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, praised the offshore wind announcement though: " The United States is back in the climate game and ready to use all the tools in our tool belt to reduce our emissions and create a healthier future for people and wildlife, alike."

The Biden administration said the new wind projects will help the nation meet climate goals and reduce global warming, create thousands of jobs and strengthen supply chains. The administration said the New York Bight leases alone would support 32,000 jobs from 2022 to 2030.

"President Biden believes we have an enormous opportunity in front of us to not only address the threats of climate change, but use it as a chance to create millions of good-paying, union jobs that will fuel America's economic recovery, rebuild the middle class, and make sure we bounce back from the crises we face," said National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy Monday. "Nowhere is the scale of that opportunity clearer than for offshore wind."

The offshore wind announcement announcement comes before Biden is expected to announce a multi-trillion plan for infrastructure investment, including more investment in renewable energy technology, on Wednesday.

(c)2021 the Connecticut Post (Bridgeport, Conn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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