Massachusetts lawmakers mull 2,000 MW offshore wind mandate

Dive Brief:

  • Leading offshore wind developers are working with Massachusetts lawmakers on legislation mandating the state's purchase of 2,000 MW of offshore wind over the next ten years, Bloomberg reports. The law would, analysts estimate, produce a $10 billion dollar regional investment in offshore wind.
  • Rep. Thomas Golden and Sen. Marc R. Pacheco, both Democrats, are leading the effort to require utilities to contract for offshore wind. They are working with developers such as Dong, Deepwater Wind, and Offshore MW on legislation that may come as soon as late May.
  • The details of the mandate, such as how much power utilities would be forced to buy, have yet to be released. It's also not clear how the bill would be received by Gov. Charlie Baker (R), who opposed the proposed 468 MW Cape Wind offshore wind installation now in limbo after its power purchase agreements were canceled.

Dive Insight:

Led by the UK and Germany, global offshore wind now has an installed capacity of 11,000 MW and is expected to add 12,000 MW by 2019, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The Massachusetts proposal would allow U.S. offshore wind developers their first opportunity to work at something near that scale. 

Dominion Virginia was the first U.S. utility interested in developing offshore wind. With partners, the utility holds a lease off the Virginia coast for a pilot 12 MW, 2 turbine installation but has not begun development due to cost.

Deepwater Wind's 30 MW, five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm, expected to be operational this summer off Rhode Island's coast, will be the first U.S. offshore wind project. Its 20-year power purchase agreement with National Grid sets the electricity price at $0.244/kWh.

Cost concerns have hampered a number of offshore wind proposals in the U.S., but a recent study indicates that may change, if and when the industry scales up. In March, the University of Delaware released research that found that developing 2,000 MW of offshore wind between 2020 and 2030, assuming current technology advances, could reduce the levelized cost of energy to $0.108/kWh, down from a previous estimate of $0.24/kWh.

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