Tag Archives: offshore wind

O’Malley and Markell Ask Obama to Help Spark Offshore Wind

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has teamed up with Delaware Governor Jack Markell in a letter to President Obama asking him to join their states in signing up for power from offshore wind.

The proximity of Washington, D.C., to the mid-Atlantic’s offshore wind resources, coupled with the number of federal agencies and military installations in and around the DC metropolitan region, creates an exceptional opportunity to forge a federal-state partnership for the development of a power-purchase agreement for offshore-wind generated energy.  Development of one gigawatt (GW) of wind energy in the mid-Atlantic region could lead to the creation of 15,000 to 20,000 clean energy jobs.

Recall just what is at stake here.  Earlier this year, a report from the Abell Foundation found that:

… Maryland’s feasible wind resource off of its Atlantic coast (including both state and federal waters) is large enough to significantly contribute to the electric demand in the state.  Using existing, proven technology (monopile; 5 MW turbines) and accounting for various social, environmental, and nautical exclusion zones and conflict areas, Maryland’s available offshore wind resource could provide 67% of the state’s electric load.

That’s just Maryland — the potential resource extends along the entire eastern seaboard and out to the edge of the Outer Continental Shelf.  In total, it is a truly massive “deposit” of energy that is clean and located close to our country’s major load centers.  It means many, well-paying local jobs into the bargain.

Unfortunately, this opportunity faces determined opposition from the fossil-fuel-burning power companies who prefer the existing arrangement.  They have stymied the Cape Wind project for nearly a decade and probably hope to do the same to offshore wind development elsewhere on the East Coast.

The fossil-fuel industry would much prefer to build new transmission lines westward from Maryland to the Ohio valley in order to ramp up production at toxic-coal-burning power plants.  “Coal-by-wire” projects with names like Path, TrAIL and MAPP are all part of “Project Mountaineer.”

O’Malley and Markell want federal agencies to sign long-term power purchase agreements to buy power from offshore wind and take other steps to clear the way.

We can debate climate policy forever — which is exactly what the toxic-coal industry would like us to do.  What really matters are the decisions that get made about the energy infrastructure we start building today.  So, which will it be, President Obama?

Coal-by-wire or offshore wind?

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Another Step Forward for Maryland Offshore Wind

Governor O’Malley joined nine other East Coast governors in signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Department of the Interior.  The MOU commits the parties to work together to coordinate a variety of issues related to developing the massive — and nearby — energy resources located to the east.  States involved cover the coast from North Carolina to Maine.

In some cases, large, multi-agency attempts at coordination tend to slow things down more than speed them up.  In this case, coordination of this type seems to be merited.  Among the matters to tackled is transmission:

Examining regional offshore wind transmission strategies, and producing specific recommendations to address relevant planning and siting processes with Federal regulators, regional transmission organizations, and state officials.

Optimal development of the wind resources of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) will probably require an underwater, coast-wise transmission system linking together some or all of the wind farms (as has been advocated by Professor Kempton).  This would enable a more steady power output.

Planning this new transmission system will require the cooperation of three regional transmission operators — New England, New York and PJM) — as well as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  The fossil fuel interests will look for any opportunity they can find to stall this effort — as they have sabotaged the Cape Wind proposal for ten years.

One thing — besides prosecuting those responsible and assisting all who have been directly harmed — we should get out of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is a determined effort to develop offshore wind in the USA.  We will need to hold the politicians’ feet to the fire.

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Maryland Needs Electric Cars to Use Offshore Wind

The looming electrification of the auto fleet raises a host of important questions, ranging from restructuring manufacturing to the impact on oil imports.  Lost in all this mayhem are the benefits to Maryland’s electricity sector.  (Maryland has announced a $1 million grant program to encourage electric vehicles.)

We’re talking about vehicles that connect to the grid: PHEVs and EVs.  These will mostly charge overnight and store enough power for a round-trip commute.  The batteries in these vehicles are not like the ones you pop into a flashlight or camera.  They are complex storage systems that include sophisticated computer controls that can be integrated with power transmission information systems.

Our electrical grid is in desperate need of storage.  Grid-connected car batteries could perform two very useful functions in Maryland, where transmission is controlled by PJM Interconnection.  These are frequency control and storage.

Frequency control has to do with the delicate balancing act required to maintain the entire power network at 60 Hz (so that clocks won’t run too fast or too slow).  Tiny changes in power are needed to achieve this balance between the massive generation plants and the small, unpredictable changes in load.  (Hour-by-hour changes are more predictable.)  It is difficult and costly for large generators to provide this service.  However, it could easily be provided by a network of auto batteries.  Only a relatively small amount of each battery’s capacity would be required at any time — one percent or so.  PJM would happily pay car owners for this service.

A bigger benefit is the overnight storage capacity.  EVs and PHEVs could be charged when the price of power is lowest — in the early morning hours.  Even with only 3 GWs of wind on the PJM network, the market effect is already significant.  Because the wind blows more at night in the Appalachians and nuclear plants must run at some minimum rate, the cost of generation can be zero during the early morning hours.  This will make electric veheciles ven more economical and low carbon for their owners.

Connecting more wind to the grid will only add to the problem of producing power when it’s not needed.  Increased storage is necessary in order to accommodate more wind — like the massive offshore resources available to Maryland and other coastal states.  Electric vehicles are the best near-term prospect for adding significant storage capacity.

This is why the University of Delaware’s Professor Kempton, a foremost exponent of offshore wind development, favors the rapid introduction of grid-integrated electric vehicles.  Offshore wind and grid-integrated vehicles must develop in tandem.  (UD owns several plug-in vehicles that are already integrated with PJM’s frequency control system.)

PJM needs offshore wind in order to reduce its massive carbon bigfoot.

You can peruse recent presentations on this topic by Professor Kempton and a PJM representative here.

Grid-connected vehicles providing distributed storage will also bring significant benefits in managing the reliability of the grid.

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Getting Real About Maryland’s Offshore Wind

A new report from the Abell Foundation details the potential of Maryland’s offshore wind resource to meet our state’s electricity needs:

… Maryland’s feasible wind resource off of its Atlantic coast (including both state and federal waters) is large enough to significantly contribute to the electric demand in the state.  Using existing, proven technology (monopile; 5 MW turbines) and accounting for various social, environmental, and nautical exclusion zones and conflict areas, Maryland’s available offshore wind resource could provide 67% of the state’s electric load.

While the study accounts for many of the conflicting uses and other barriers, the greatest obstacle to realizing our state’s vast offshore wind potential may be economic.  After all, bringing this new power into Maryland’s electricity market would make life difficult for incumbent generators.  They want to hold onto their revenue and market share even if their antiquated plants are dirty and inefficient.

Consider:

1. “Maryland’s” offshore wind resource is mostly located in federal waters.  Whether in state or federal waters, agreement from a host of influential federal agencies will be required.

2. The new offshore transmission network will be under federal jurisdiction.  Will it be controlled by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, another existing federal agency or even a new one — perhaps modeled on the Bonneville Power Administration (which operates outside of FERC control)?

3. The offshore netowrk must be connected to the on-shore transmission system controlled by PJM, the private grid manaer regulated by FERC.

In short, Maryland’s offshore wind potential won’t be developed anytime soon without the active cooperation of FERC and PJM. Both are heavily influenced by incumbent industry players who stand to lose money and influence to offshore wind.

Like any public agency, FERC is vulnerable to “regulatory capture,” a widely recognized mechanism whereby the regulated private interests come to dominate “their” regulators.  Just to cite one instance, FERC and PJM are heavily committed to building new “coal-by-wire” transmission lines like PATH that benefit major players including American Electric Power.  Rapid development of offshore wind would threaten the viability of this FERC “pet project.”  Will FERC fight to defend AEP’s PATH project?

Under the best of circumstances, realizing the potential for clean energy and local jobs described in the report would be highly challenging.  In the face of industry opposition bolstered by allies in powerful federal agencies, it may be nigh impossible without determined public support.

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O’Malley Advances Offshore Wind

The massive offshore wind resource on the East Coast holds great potential for tackling Maryland’s energy challenges.

Governor O’Malley is leading a steady march towards realizing this opportunity.  Last year, he joined other governors in a letter urging Congressional leaders to speed up offshore wind development, instead of promoting on-shore transmission only.

In November, O’Malley signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the governors of Virginia and Delware to promote offshore wind.  The Maryland Energy Administration has taken aggressive steps to clear the way, including mapping the offshore resource.  Maryland will purchase power from NRG Bluewater’s offshore wind project.

In November, Governor O’Malley joined with the governors of Virginia, New Jersey and Delaware to ask the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to order private transmission operator PJM Interconnection to consider transmission solutions that would facilitate the development of offshore wind resources.  (See FERC Docket No. AD09-8-00).

It’s great news that the Governor’s legislative agenda includes additional steps to move wind forward.  SB 282 “Off-Shore Wind Generation – Qualified Submerged Renewable Energy Line” will facilitate the construction of transmission connectors needed to bring offshore power to the onshore grid.

Meanwhile, Europe’s offshore wind industry powers ahead.

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Competition from Offshore Wind

Offshore wind sounds nice to those of us who use electricity.  It’s clean and abundant:

[The Cape Wind Project] would with 130 wind turbines, well off the Cape shore,  produce power equivalent to ¾ of the base-load of Cape Cod, Marthas Vineyard and Nantucket.  …the Woods Hole Research Center’s 100 kw turbine, has in the first few days of operation produced about 7% of the total annual use of energy by the entire institution. It is expected to produce annually an excess of energy above the institution’s demand. While the total energy production of all of these machines is not yet known, it will take but little in addition to the Cape Wind Project  to make the Cape and the Islands a net source of electrical energy for the New England region, a powerful example for the nation and the world.

Sounds great for the grand-kids!

But what about the incumbent power generators?  Those poor guys have to purchase coal, uranium, and natural gas to keep the turbines turning.  Then they have to clean up the resulting mess — nuclear waste, coal ash, etc. — or leave it for the rest of us to clean up.   How can they possibly compete?

They can’t.  Which is why they are fighting to hard to block the development of the massive wind resources on the Outer Continental Shelf.  The United States still has no commercial scale offshore wind project.

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Maryland Takes First Steps in Offshore Wind

The Maryland Energy Administration announced that it has taken the first steps to follow up on Governor O’Malley’s committment to developing offshore wind, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Last May, the Governor joined nine other governors of East Coat states in urging Congressional leaders to support development of

…the waters adjacent to the East Coats [which] hold potential for developing some of the most robust wind energy resources in the world — enough wind potential to meet total U.S. electricity demand as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has recently pointed out.

MEA administrator Woolf picked up on this theme in his announcement.

“We know Maryland has great wind resources off our shore,” said Malcolm Woolf, state energy administrator. “We’ve got to figure out how best to tap into them.”

Maryland follows in the wake of other East Coast states.

Delaware recently settled on Bluewater Wind, a subsidiary of a national energy firm, to build a 230-megawatt string of turbines 13 miles off Rehoboth Beach. New Jersey has tapped Bluewater and two other companies to develop wind projects off its coast.

Maryland will undertake research to better understand the offshore wind resources.

Woolf said the new study will give developers technical information on wind speeds and ocean depths, so they can decide where or whether to bid for building offshore turbines. The study {…} is expected to be completed early next year…

Offshore wind requires more time to develop than does onshore wind.  The sooner we get started, the better.

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