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Offshore Wind Lease Auction Blows Old Record Out of the Water

The three easternmost areas (0520, 0521, and 0522) sold today for a collective $405 million. Map: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
What a difference a few years and visionary leadership can make. This morning, developers finished 32 rounds of bidding on areas of federal waters off the coast of Massachusetts designated for offshore wind power development. The three areas drew a collective total of just over $405 million. Moving from west to east, the winning bidders are Equinor Wind, Mayflower Wind Energy, and Vineyard Wind, with bids of $135 million, $135 million, and $135.1 million, respectively.
The federal government has been holding offshore wind energy auctions since 2013, and in early 2015 offered this same portion of the ocean for auction… but there were no bidders. Until today, the highest bid on an offshore wind energy area was $42 million, for an area off of New York that Equinor (formerly Statoil) won just two years ago.
Zero to hundreds of millions in four years– what happened?!
What has changed to spike such intense competition? Quite a bit, actually. Despite the fact that the U.S. has yet to get a single offshore wind turbine built in federal waters (the nation’s only five turbines stand in Rhode Island state waters), globally speaking the offshore wind industry is booming – and has been growing for decades. The U.S. Atlantic Coast is prime for offshore wind development; it’s home to plenty of demand for power, a strong and consistent wind resource, and a gradually sloping outer continental shelf essential for fixing turbines to the seafloor.
Offshore wind developers worldwide have had an eye on this part of the planet for quite some time – while eagerly awaiting a shift in the political climate.
Back in 2015, while thousands of offshore wind turbines operated to great success around the globe, decision-makers in the U.S. were still grappling with whether to support the concept. There was some policy progress in the Mid-Atlantic, but not a single Northeast state had made a large-scale commitment to offshore wind power development. Massachusetts’s Cape Wind project had just lost its utility contracts after over a decade of legal battles with deep-pocketed opponents unwilling to share Nantucket Sound with wind turbines, and the few developers willing to take the gamble on U.S. development had already acquired a handful of other lease areas – stretching any thinner with such uncertainty would have been tough to justify.
The Block Island Wind Farm is currently America’s only offshore wind power project – five turbines in Rhode Island State Waters. Photo: NWF
Since then, the U.S. offshore wind story has turned from a crawl to a full sprint. The Block Island Wind Farm is up and running, demonstrating what these feats of engineering are capable of: replacing fossil fuel-fired power plants and providing clean, domestic power right when and where we need it most. MassachusettsNew York, and New Jersey have made assertive commitments to develop enough offshore wind power for hundreds of thousands of homes apiece. MassachusettsNew YorkRhode Island, and Connecticut are advancing specific project contracts. It’s a new day for offshore wind power in the Northeast. The opportunity is here and now, and developers are vying to get in the game.
“This historic auction clearly demonstrates investor confidence in America’s offshore wind market, thanks to the leadership of states like Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey that have set long term, large scale commitments to finally bring this critically needed climate solution online… The National Wildlife Federation applauds the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for a successful auction and congratulates Equinor Wind, Mayflower Wind Energy and Vineyard Wind for securing these new leases. Looking forward, we will continue to work with all leaseholders to ensure that coastal and marine wildlife are protected throughout every stage of the offshore wind development process.” -- Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation (See full statement here.)
What's Next?
There’s still a long way to go from here. Developers now need to learn the details of their areas, design projects, secure power contracts and an extensive number of permits, and much more. There are public comment periods every step of the way, and ample opportunity to raise and work through concerns.
The National Wildlife Federation looks forward to working with these new lease holders to ensure that wildlife and habitat will be protected throughout every stage of surveying and development. We will continue to advocate for the swift and responsible development of offshore wind power, and we hope you will join us in speaking up for this important clean energy solution. Offshore wind power can play a key role in transforming our energy profile into one we can be proud of – and it will take all of us pushing in that direction to ensure we seize the opportunity closer to our grasp than ever before.

NY Is Officially in the Offshore Wind Arena

NY Is Officially in the Offshore Wind Arena

By Joe Martens

After years of study and planning, New York State has made good on Governor Cuomo’s promise to pursue at least 800 MW of offshore wind in 2018 and 2019. Last week, the New York Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) released a request for proposals for 800 MW or more of offshore wind. The RFP is the culmination of a deliberative process that started with a Blueprint for Offshore Wind published in the fall of 2016, followed by the release in January 2018 of a NYS Offshore Wind Master Plan, followed by a Public Service Commission Order issued in August.  

To its credit, NYSERDA and its sister agencies have engaged stakeholders at every stage of the process and continue to refine the offshore wind program through the formation of four technical working groups covering environment, fisheries, ports and infrastructure, and jobs and supply chain. 

I serve on the Environmental Technical Working Group (E-TWG), which kicked off a two-day “State of the Science” workshop on wildlife and offshore wind energy development on Long Island this past week. The workshop was attended by well over 100 people, including experts from Europe, where there are now 91 offshore wind farms in operation. The workshop examined current research on the potential impacts to marine mammals, birds, bats, and more. Participants identified data gaps, research needs, and discussed how to prioritize the work that should be done to ensure that the offshore wind industry is developed responsibly with the least amount of environmental impact. 

Next up, NYSERDA is hosting a “Suppliers Forum” in New York City to ensure that information about offshore wind supply chain is broadcast far and wide and offshore wind-related businesses are connected to offshore wind developers in an effort to maximize the amount of New York vendors in this burgeoning industry. NYSERDA estimates that offshore wind development will employ some 5,000 people and generate some $6 billion in economic activity, making this Suppliers Forum very timely.

And finally, later this month, the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management will hold a Renewable Energy Task Force meeting to discuss its proposed Wind Energy Area in the New York Bight.  BOEM is proposing a dramatically reduced area for potential lease, causing concerns about whether it is adequate to ensure robust competition and large enough to meet the offshore wind goals of New York and New Jersey.  Stay tuned for more on this.

It's a Wrap! ACE NY Hosts Its Most Successful Annual Fall Conference and Membership Meeting

It's a Wrap! ACE NY Hosts Its Most Successful Annual Fall Conference and Membership Meeting

From Policy to Projects: Putting NYers to Work for Clean Energy -- ACE NY’s 12th Annual Fall Conference and Membership Meeting -- attracted over 200 attendees to the beautifully renovated Albany Capital Center October 9-10, from a broad range of industries, individuals, and media interested in clean energy.

 

Spotlight Speaker, Alicia Barton, President & CEO, NYSERDA, delivering a Clean Energy Update

 

 

Starting with a members-only Board meeting October 9, ACE NY’s growing membership of clean energy developers, nonprofits, and industry organizations used the rest of the day to engage in membership roundtable discussion groups that covered Article 10 issues and improvements, large scale renewables procurement by the state, and legislation on energy efficiency and distributed energy resources. The work-day wrapped up with a late afternoon panel discussion on the NYISO carbon charge proposal featuring panelists Michael Mager from Multiple Intervenors, Frank Murray from NRDC, Kathy Robertson from Exelon, and Chris LaRoe from Brookfield. The interest in the carbon charge panel was obvious, resulting in a standing-room only scenario and discussion lasting longer than the allotted 75 minutes from on-going member questions to the panelists about the topic.

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Made in NY: What Will It Take for Corporates to Buy NY Renewables?

Made in NY: What Will It Take for Corporates to Buy NY Renewables?

--ACE NY at Climate Week NYC

Corporate voluntary purchasing of wind and solar power has been so hot in 2018; it seems a new deal is announced weekly. Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported a record-breaking 7.2 GW of global renewable energy purchasing so far in 2018, already well above 2017 levels.

But why isn’t it happening in New York?

Buying renewable energy through long-term power purchasing agreements is motivated by corporate sustainability goals, matched by the potential for long-term savings. The RE100 – a growing list of 140 companies striving to offset 100% of their energy needs through these agreements – reflects this marriage of eco-commitments and savings opportunities. And it is the U.S. and Nordic countries where corporate renewables buying is most active.

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