A wise man once said you always double down when you are dealt eleven in Blackjack. Well, Deepwater Wind is pursuing economies of scale, and has effectively doubled down, increasing its proposed wind park from 100 to 200 turbines, lowering the cost of wind generated to 16 cents/kw. I detailed the long and complicated process of this development, here, here, and here; this study details the great potential of Atlantic offshore wind. Suffice it to say, this expansion bodes well for the approval and completion of the large-scale wind farm. Save the Bay’s Jonathan Stone, director of the largest and most prestigious environmental group in Rhode Island, supports the move. Rhode Island taxpayers will like the lower rates. This is a win-win.
Life never ceases to amaze me. On Sunday, a multi-millionaire businessman, maker of the Segway motorized scooters died while riding one of his scooters – he plunged 80 feet over a limestone cliff into a river. Jimi Heselden, a former miner, died at the age of 62, with a fortune estimated at $263 Million. He was riding one of the Segway X2 offroad scooters, near his home. This reminds me that no matter how rich or powerful, no matter how permanent things seem, everything is impermanent.
If you think that is crazy, then check this out. After the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the recent explosion on another oil rig, we still look to the Oceans for oil reserves. However, the environmental group Oceana just released a report showing that offshore wind development on our Atlantic coast has more capacity and is more cost effective than drilling for oil reserves:
“On the Atlantic coast, an area targeted for expansion of oil and gas activities, offshore wind can generate nearly 30% more electricity than offshore oil and gas resources combined. In addition, wind development would cost about $36 billion less than offshore oil and gas production combined, while creating about three times as many jobs per dollar invested than fossil fuel production. Based on conservative assumptions for offshore wind and generous assumptions for offshore oil and natural gas, this study found that by investing in offshore wind on the East Coast, rather than offshore oil and gas, Americans would get more energy for less money while protecting our oceans.”
The study looks at 11 states on the Eastern seaboard, and examines how they make power now, and the capacity for offshore development. The beauty of offshore wind is that capacity sits next to major population centers along the East Coast. As this study shows, offshore wind can produce much of our electricity load:
“In addition to these obvious benefits, offshore wind potential is best where population is largely focused, and could power much of the East Coast. Delaware, Massachusetts and North Carolina could generate enough electricity from offshore wind to equal current electricity generation. Other East Coast states such as New Jersey, Virginia and South Carolina could supply 92%, 83% and 64% of their current electricity generation with offshore wind, respectively.”
Why aren’t we shifting to this outstanding resource? Right now in Rhode Island, an offshore wind development is in the works that will provide much needed jobs, as well as clean energy. However, some Rhode Island ratepayers still resist because they want to enjoy subsidized fossil power that doesn’t account for externalities like health costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, the development is tied up in Court. The state utility commission finally approved the deal in August but the Attorney General appealed the decision to the State Supreme Court.
In any rate it seems high time to start development of offshore wind. As this timely report shows, wind power is more cost effective and more plentiful than oil reserves on the Atlantic Coast, and doesn’t have the costly externalities of fossil fuels. Our grandchildren will thank us.
- Huge wind energy potential off Eastern U.S. -study (reuters.com)
While the Rhode Island politicos bicker about whether and how to construct an offshore windfarm, and Rhode Island ratepayers insist that they prefer diesel generators and coal, externalities and all, China is showing what a clean-tech engine really looks like.
In July, the 102 MW Donghai Bridge Wind Farm went online and transmitted good clean energy to the mainland from the East China Sea. China was the first, outside Europe, and they are not slowing down. They have several other farms under construction. In the next 3 years, they plan to add 514MW of offshore wind energy. In the next 20 years they plan to add 30GW. China is actually making this happen – right now.
Wake up Rhode Island! Do you want 21st Century clean-tech jobs at Quonset Point? Or, do you hope those textile mills will suddenly come back into style?
- Chinese Offshore Development Blows Past U.S. (nytimes.com)
It appears that wind energy in Rhode Island may finally be moving forward. Last Thursday, the State Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously to restart the hearing process for the Block Island wind farm development. That was possible because of new legislation, signed by Governor Carcieri that compels the PUC to take potential rate reductions from cost savings as well as economic and environmental benefits to the state into account while making their decision. EcoRI writes that the new law “basically forces the PUC to approve any new power purchase agreement from Deepwater Wind,” including the newly proposed rate of 23.57 cents per kilowatt-hour. The Conservation Law Foundation and Attorney General Patrick Lynch remain opposed to the project, because they believe the law favors one developer, violating language in Rhode Island’s Constitution that “all laws be made for the good of the whole.” However, the hearing process is resumed, and the PUC may issue a decision by the beginning of September.
As I mentioned earlier, the project includes an underwater cable connecting Block Island to the mainland. The proposed rate of 23.57 cents kw/h is higher than current rates on the mainland, but it represents a savings on Block Island, which relies on diesel generators which cost residents as much as 62 cents hw/h.
Until externalities are taken into account, fossil fuels will always appear cheaper than wind energy. In fact, once we truly understand the health and environmental impacts of fossil fuels, renewable energy will appear a bargain in retrospect. If you live downrange of a coal plant, the sulfur dioxide coming out of the smokestack affects your health. If you live around a shale deposit being targeted by natural gas developers, you may have polluted drinking water that can light on fire and damage your brain. If you live on the Earth, continued increases in Greenhouse Gas emissions may lead to a less and less hospitable planet. This project by Deepwater Wind is a pilot project in preparation for a utility-scale project in Federal waters off Rhode Island. However, we need more development. Rhode Islanders need to embrace wave energy, solar energy, and geothermal energy. These developments will not all be utility scale. The revolution of micro power is one that will help communities find ideal solutions for their energy needs.
While the fate of the Deepwater Wind projects are still being considered, let us not forget the Portsmouth Town Wind Turbine, which recently passed its first anniversary of operation. In one year, the turbine, a 1.5MW AAER produced model, gave the town 3,626 mWh of power, equivalent to about 75% of the town’s electrical load. It exceeded predicted production and revenue goals, and as such is an example of how wind power is right at home in the Ocean State. I play tennis at Portsmouth High School, right at the base of the 336 ft turbine, and hope to see more of these majestic turbines on the horizon soon.
On Wednesday Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved the development of Cape Wind, an offshore wind farm planned for Nantucket Sound. While plenty of attention has been paid to the project nationally, little has been made of an effort to beat the Cape Wind development as the first offshore wind project in the United States.
Deepwater Wind, a New Jersey company, is proposing the development of two wind projects off of Rhode Island. One, an eight-turbine array, would provide power to Block Island, which now relies on diesel generators. The second project is a utility-scale project that would follow the Block Island farm.
The Block Island project, in addition to providing renewable energy to the island, would also include an underwater cable that would connect the island to the mainland. In fact, the project seemed to be on track until March, when the three-member Public Utilities Commission (PUC) rejected the contract that Deepwater Wind and National Grid agreed to. That contract would have set an initial 24.4 cents/kw-hr rate, which would have increased 3.5% annually over the 20-year contract.
Much was made of Senator Ted Kennedy’s opposition to the Cape Wind development; well here in Rhode Island, we have Christopher Walken opposing the project. Walken owns a house on the Southeast corner of Block Island, which would be facing the project. But wait, there’s more. 2010 is an election year, and this drama is full of head-spinning political twists.
The State General Assembly is debating a bill that would circumvent the PUC and give authority over the contract to different state agencies. The Rhode Island Attorney General, Democrat Patrick Lynch, who is running to replace Republican Governor Carcieri, opposes the circumvention of the PUC. Governor Carcieri believes the PUC misinterpreted its authority. Yesterday the Governor released a letter that the PUC wrote last year, stating that determining the benfits of renewable energy projects is beyond the scope of the commission’s expertise. Of course, the Governor appointed the PUC. Additionally, Brian Hull of RIFuture.org pointed out that in February the PUC quietly approved an 11% rate hike for Rhode Island ratepayers by the London-based National Grid, which itself gained 12% of profit in 2009.
The fate of the Block Island wind project lies with the General Assembly. If it passes, the project could still beat the Cape Wind development in the water, especially considering that the deep-pocketed opponents of Cape Wind are planning a lawsuit. Deepwater Wind considers the Block Island project to be a pre-cursor to the utility-scale project, which would require Federal approval.
The benefits of the Deepwater Wind developments are clear. The underwater cable will link Block Island to the mainland, and allow the island to end use of its diesel generators. Deepwater Wind plans to create a staging area at Quonset Point, the location of an old Naval Air Station, decommissioned in 1974. The development on the old NAS is notable because President Richard Nixon undertook his basic Naval Officer training there. During his Presidency he created the Environmental Protection Agency, among other notable environmental accomplishments. Republican Governor Carcieri hopes that the Deepwater Wind project will add environmental credibility to his own political legacy. In addition to the Deepwater Wind projects, the Quonset Point development is the likely location for Cape Wind’s own turbine assembly. That means actual longterm job creation here in the Ocean State. With Rhode Island mired with 13% unemployment, this development deserves approval.
UPDATE: Here are some details on the contract that Cape Wind and National Grid agreed to yesterday. Matthew Wald questions the contract’s chances with the Massachusetts equivalent of the PUC.