Wind turbines and electrical substation of the Alpha Ventus Offshore Wind Farm in the North Sea Wikipedia

Connecticut is a governor’s signature away from getting into the offshore wind game, catching up with neighboring states on what is widely considered to be one of the most promising renewable energy sources for the U.S.

With little debate, the Senate unanimously approved legislation, already passed in the House, that requires 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind – that’s roughly the same size as Millstone – by 2030, about the time the nuclear plant’s recently approved new contract runs out. But the 2,000 level is a maximum, not a minimum – which is how other states structure their mandates.

The initial solicitation process kicks off two weeks after the bill is signed – designed to also align with a solicitation already underway in Massachusetts with the goal of getting better pricing for both states.

The legislation comes after a few years of wrangling, in which the state has steadfastly declined to commit to an offshore wind mandate. In the meantime something of a can-you-top-this race for offshore wind went on among neighboring states, with New York embracing a 9,000-megawatt offshore wind commitment – with 18 initial bids for up to 1,200 megawatts now under consideration. Massachusetts has a 3,200-megawatt mandate with 800 megawatts already under contract and a call in recent days for another 1,600 megawatts. New Jersey is targeting 3,500 megawatts

Connecticut has accepted 300 megawatts so far, but there has been no requirement for offshore wind. Even without the recently announced plans for a $93-million redevelopment plan for the State Pier in New London to make it ready for offshore-wind, mandate proponents strategized for months on how to get a 2,000 megawatt requirement.

Massachusetts has been far ahead of Connecticut and other states in developing its on-shore component of offshore wind in an effort to capture the jobs and economic development that go with it. The big prize would be snagging the U.S. supply chain for offshore wind. Right now nearly all of it is in Europe.

By committing to serious wind procurement, Connecticut can now better compete for some of that economic development.

“Legislators are now sending a loud-and-clear message that our state is serious about securing a major share of this emerging industry,” John Humphries, executive director of the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs said in a statement. “The rapid transformation of the state’s interest in offshore wind development is good news for Connecticut’s workers and their communities because it can jumpstart the needed transition to a thriving clean energy economy.”

It puts Connecticut in a prime position, said Francis Pullaro, executive director of RENEW Northeast, in a statement. “For developers of offshore wind projects, this legislation sends a signal to invest in Connecticut and bring the benefits of affordable renewable energy development to the state.”

Emily Lewis, director of climate and energy analysis at Acadia Center, pointed to the environmental and climate change benefits. “Offshore wind is a critical piece of the puzzle to reducing emissions in the northeast, and Connecticut is now poised to join its neighbors in harnessing this resource and benefitting from growth of this new clean energy industry,” she said in a statement.

The state’s new Commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Katie Dykes, was lukewarm on a mandate when she ran DEEP’s energy bureau and as the chair of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.

She came around as commissioner when details of timing were addressed, but still worried that 2,000 megawatts was too large a percentage of the state’s overall power needs. But she said she is aware that the timing was good – with turbines getting larger, more efficient and less expensive and federal tax credits due to run out at the end of the year.

In the end she said, “I’m pleased with this bill.”

Jan Ellen is CT Mirror's regular freelance Environment and Energy Reporter. As a freelance reporter, her stories have also appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Yale Climate Connections, and elsewhere. She is a former editor at The Hartford Courant, where she handled national politics including coverage of the controversial 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. She was an editor at the Gazette in Colorado Springs and spent more than 20 years as a TV and radio producer at CBS News and CNN in New York and in the Boston broadcast market. In 2013 she was the recipient of a Knight Journalism Fellowship at MIT on energy and climate. She graduated from the University of Michigan and attended Boston University’s graduate film program.

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6 Comments

  1. “… the recently announced plans for a $93-million redevelopment plan for the State Pier in New London …”

    Wake up folks – New Bedford MA is years ahead of the state of CT when it comes to developing the on-shore support needed for off-shore wind generation support facilities.

    1. Why would that be surprising. New Bedford is our northern East Coast’s major fishing port with a long tradition of innovation. By virtue of its population and governmental competence Mass will likely site the east coast’s largest offshore wind farm. Some benefits will flow to CT which is poorly positioned to be a major solar wind farm producer.

      1. Agreed. But why should CT taxpayers foot the bill to upgrade the CT Pier in New London to be capable of providing support services for offshore wind facilities when New Bedford is far ahead of CT and, more importantly, is located much closer to where the wind turbines will be situated?

        I’m all for supporting wind-generator electricity where it makes sense. CT needs to aggressively pursue regional efforts at this and not just take a single-minded, CT alone, approach.

  2. CT’s offshore wind power access is largely restricted to projects already underway south of Block Island. So its unlikely CT will develop wind power shares of its electric grid in similar proportion of other New England States. That said wind power is widely viewed as the non-fossil source of electric power the world over. After all the ballyhoo about “solar power” CT is finally “moving in the right direction. Also, there’s no reason CT couldn’t encourage development of wind power in suitable vacant or largely isolated land areas throughout the State. As have several western States. Wind power can be sited anywhere there’s dependable wind source, on land or at sea.

  3. Last time I looked (during this weekend’s Block Island Sail Regatta) there were just 5 turbines several miles south of Block Island’s small wind farm is located. Eventually there’ll be a very major wind power turbine installation. But its going to take some time. That the State is working with Bridgeport to serve as an assembly area is good news.

  4. A new wrinkle has developed that both adds to costs and delays securing wind power from Block Island. Namely the environmental requirement to bury the power cables roughly 10’ below the sea bed. However, some bottoms are rock requiring mapping the area in detail and securing alternative routes for soft bottoms to bury the transmission cables. Nonetheless the future is promising. Wind power is already the dominant green energy in Europe. And major installations are already underway for the Cape and the Virginia coasts.
    Some analysts believe wind power will eventually eclipse both solar and nuclear power generation in the U.S. Given the “promise” of nuclear energy decades ago that’s a remarkable change in technology. New England may well have competitive electric power in the not too distant future. From water power in colonial days to wind power. Quite a journey.

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