Full Speed Ahead for Offshore Wind in New England

offshore wind

Offshore wind offers many benefits to coastal communities and the wider region. Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Today marks an incredible milestone for Massachusetts, and a monumental step forward toward a clean energy economy in New England.

Massachusetts’ three biggest electric companies issued a ground-breaking request for bids for offshore wind energy. Wind developers will now compete to sell Massachusetts residents at least 400 megawatts (and up to a whopping 800 megawatts) of offshore wind power — enough to power up to a quarter million homes and businesses.

CLF Pushes for Offshore Wind Progress

CLF is proud to have played a role in making this historic step a reality. First, we helped get turbines spinning on the Block Island Wind Farm — a project that proved offshore wind could meet our energy needs while conserving valuable marine resources. And as of last month, Block Island became the first community in the country to be powered entirely by clean, pollution-free electricity from offshore wind.

It won’t be the last. CLF pushed hard for the passage of a 2016 Clean Energy Bill that requires Massachusetts’ electric companies to purchase at least 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind by 2027 — enough to power more than half a million homes. (This first bid request is for half of the total amount.)

We then made sure that Massachusetts followed through on this landmark bill. Together with our allies, we gathered more than 1,200 signatures from residents who support offshore wind, sending a powerful message to regulators to not drop the ball on this commitment.

We also advocated for a transparent selection process, timely development, stakeholder engagement, and protections for marine life, while ensuring projects catalyze a sustainable local wind industry and bring jobs to coastal communities. CLF played a key role in designing a final bid request that ensures wind developers can benefit from soon-to-expire federal tax credits.  Bigger tax credits means cheaper prices for electricity customers (you, me, and all Massachusetts residents).

Massachusetts Can — and Must — Get This Right

Today’s request for bids will serve as a model for future solicitations of offshore wind in New England and beyond. The project – or projects – selected will also play a key role in reducing climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning Massachusetts to a clean-energy economy. Therefore, it’s vitally important that we get this process right.

While the request for bids is a fantastic step forward for clean energy, we’re disappointed that the Baker Administration neglected some of our key recommendations that could help ensure the success of offshore wind. In particular, we’re troubled that developers could propose projects that wouldn’t be in operation until 2027. Massachusetts shouldn’t have to wait a decade to benefit from this source of clean energy.

We know from Europe’s experience with offshore wind that it only takes a few short years to install turbines and begin delivering electricity. Massachusetts needs the economic and environmental benefits of offshore wind now — we don’t have time to waste in reducing dangerous carbon emissions.

But we remain confident that developers can propose projects that get turbines spinning as quickly as possible and capitalize on environmental, economic, and public health benefits. And we will keep making our voices heard. CLF will closely follow the bidding and participate in contract review proceedings to advocate for a project that nurtures Massachusetts’ nascent wind industry, protects valuable ocean and coastal resources like the endangered North Atlantic right whale, and ensures our transition to a clean energy economy.

So What Happens Next?

Offshore wind developers have until December 20 to prepare and submit their bids. The public will be able to review all of the bids at MACleanEnergy.com.

This bid request process is exciting, but it’s only the first step. Massachusetts’ electric companies ultimately must solicit the full 1,600 megawatts. That means we can expect at least one more bid request by 2019, and maybe more.

With Massachusetts leading the charge, other states are picking up speed, too. New York and Maryland are moving ahead with their own offshore wind projects, Rhode Island is hungry for more, and Connecticut has expressed interest in joining future bid requests.

New England’s leadership has already kick-started a new era of offshore wind. CLF will be here to see it through and ensure that Massachusetts’ projects are just the beginning of a sustained and vibrant offshore wind industry that generates continual and growing benefits for all Massachusetts residents.

Before you go... CLF is working every day to create real, systemic change for New England’s environment. And we can’t solve these big problems without people like you. Will you be a part of this movement by considering a contribution today? If everyone reading our blog gave just $10, we’d have enough money to fund our legal teams for the next year.