The state’s goal is to ensure it has “a seat at the table” as development emerges

The development of offshore wind farms in the Gulf of Maine as a source of electrical power offers opportunities for the state of New Hampshire, but the opportunities lie more in the economic benefits to the Granite State than the energy benefits direct, depending on the information presented. at a one-day New Hampshire Offshore Wind Summit held Sept. 27 in Portsmouth.

“The offshore wind sector requires significant onshore infrastructure for fabrication, construction, triage, operation and maintenance. In each of these areas, significant investments are required to meet the unique needs of the industry, all required to develop an offshore wind installation,” said James Andrews, President of Granite Shore Power, a wholesale energy company that operates five power plants in New York. Hampshire.

As offshore facilities in the Gulf of Maine come online in the coming years, Andrews is considering the possibility of its plants retooling to become part of the grid that will ultimately supply wind-powered electricity to the New England grid.

“GSP’s assets are ideally located near key infrastructure needed to reliably transition to the region’s next generation of energy resources in New Hampshire and to drive commerce,” Andrews said. These assets include Schiller Station and Newington Station, both on the Piscataqua River, and Merrimack Station in Bow, White Lake Station in Tamworth and Lost Nation Station in Northumberland.

Andrews was one of 24 presenters who covered four topics at the summit, which was held at the Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside Hotel and organized by the NH Department of Environmental Services, the Chamber Collaborative of Greater Portsmouth and the Business and Industry Association.

Topics included the role of the state in an offshore wind venture in the Gulf of Maine, the utility and consumer perspective, business and labor opportunities and challenges, and opportunities for infrastructure.

From the state’s perspective, it is a matter of preparation to ensure that its interests and needs are fully represented.

“It really is a complex question, an incredibly complex question,” Governor Chris Sununu told the gathering of some 120 people who attended the summit. “You have to make sure that all the right stakeholders are in the room, that the voices are heard. At some point we have to make decisions of whether to go there or not, where the costs and where it’s going to be, and how that plays into what happens in New England.

His job, he said, is to look out for New Hampshire’s interests, to assess and capitalize on the opportunities that offshore wind might present. “Because of how we’re located, we’re really ready to bring some of these transmission opportunities and whatever to New England through the New Hampshire corridor,” Sununu said.

“My job is to be super, super selfish just for the 1.4 million people in 603. That’s all I really care about right now. That’s it, and we have to make sure that we put them first every time and fight for their best interests every time,” the governor added.

This fight would not only include the economic and energy benefits of offshore wind, but would ensure that the state is entitled to all mitigation funds for interests that could be affected by wind farms – whale watching, fishermen , lobsters and fishing charters, for example.

Up to 5 offshore leases

The US government intends to offer leases in an area of ​​approximately 13.7 million acres in the Gulf of Maine off the coasts of Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire that could produce up to 65 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind power. (To put that into perspective, one gigawatt equals one billion watts. The typical household light bulb is between 60 and 100 watts.)

It is seeking commercial interest in these leases through an RFI (request of interest) that the US Office of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will begin reviewing once the comment period expires Oct. 3.

By 2025, the US Department of the Interior plans to hold auctions for up to five offshore leases and review at least 16 plans to build and operate offshore commercial wind farms.

As a source of electricity and a buffer against climate change, wind is more important to the New England region as a whole than to New Hampshire as a state.

Right now, New Hampshire is a net exporter of electricity – it doesn’t use the power it produces, so it doesn’t desperately need more in terms of additional power than offshore wind can provide to the network.

Additionally, New Hampshire’s current energy production does not contribute significantly to climate change. More than half of the state’s electricity is generated by nuclear power, which is carbon-free. Nuclear fission is not without environmental concerns, but like wind and solar, it does not directly produce carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases responsible for climate change.

While more than half of New Hampshire’s electricity comes from nuclear power, 25% is generated from natural gas, 7% from hydroelectricity, 6% from biomass, 3% from wind, 1.6% coal and 1% solar energy.

Other New England states have set targets for how much power they want to get out of the Gulf of Maine. Massachusetts, for example, has set a target of 15 GW of offshore wind by 2050.

“The major part”

New Hampshire’s goals for offshore wind, as set out in its current 10-year energy strategy, are more general and not tied to a specific dollar amount. Although he noted “great promise for offshore wind”, the strategy’s recommendations focused on cost and regulation, saying: “As technological improvements continue to drive down the costs of wind offshore, New Hampshire should reduce unnecessary regulatory barriers that would impede the responsible development of wind power in the waters. in the Gulf of Maine.

State electricity is tied to a New England-wide grid operated by ISO New England Inc., which oversees the operation of New England’s bulk power system and transmission lines. England, generated and transmitted by its member utilities, such as Eversource.

“From where Eversource is, using our local resource – offshore wind, which is close to our electrical load – has to be the bulk of how we’re going to keep the lights on for at least the next 20 years,” said Julia Bovey, Eversource’s external affairs director for offshore wind.

Eversource has so far signed six contracts to access 1,760 megawatts of wind power and plans to invest up to $1 billion in projects off New York and Connecticut.

For a smaller utility like Unitil, it’s all about finding the right power generation mix.

“We don’t have the kind of size or clout that a company like Eversource might have to make the kind of larger investments. But nevertheless, we have the same interests as them. We want to see pricing that makes sense for customers in the creation and delivery of energy at a reasonable price,” said Unitil’s senior counsel Matthew Fossum.

“Ultimately, Unitil is very interested in integrating a diversity of sources, including offshore wind as it is produced. We will have to see a diversification of our energy mix,” he said.

The underlying theme of the summit was to ensure that New Hampshire has a seat at the table as offshore wind decisions for this region are made.

“Ultimately, this is going to happen in federal waters. So if you’re not at the table, talking about the interests of your stakeholders, you’re doing them a disservice,” said NHDES Deputy Commissioner Mark Sanborn. “Our goal is to be at every possible table to make sure our interests are expressed, to make sure we are aware of opportunities that arise and to be able to communicate them to you all.”

State Sen. David Watters, D-Dover, chairman of the New Hampshire Commission to Study Offshore Wind and Port Development, cited laws that help the state establish policy not just as a consumer of offshore wind energy , but within the framework of its creation.

“What we tried to do was prepare New Hampshire. We created the Offshore Wind Commission by law two years ago. He also established the Office of Offshore Wind within the Department of Business and Economic Affairs,” Watters said.

He emphasized three points in his presentation: impartiality, transparency and timeliness.

“What we really want to show is that in this state there will be non-partisan cooperation, that we are going to have people connect with the governor, the commissioners and others. Also, we’re going to have transparency in the process here. People who want to invest here in the offshore wind industry will know who the players are,” Watters said. “Really, the message is that we are open for business in New Hampshire when it comes to offshore wind.”

While citing opportunities, some panelists also cited challenges, including the availability of labor, housing and child care for that workforce and the fact that doing business in New Hampshire is expensive. in energy.

“New Hampshire has a very vibrant advanced manufacturing sector that has tremendous potential to continue to grow. But the one attribute of our state that continues to plague this industry in our ability to continue to evolve and grow is the cost of energy,” said BIA President and CEO Mike Skelton. “I think our overall message is find a way to do it, but do it quickly. Because the energy challenges we face are not going away. And they could unfortunately get worse.

These articles are shared by partners of The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information, visit collaborativenh.org.

Edward N. Arrington