Avangrid Renewables is pursuing two new wind projects, one off the coast of Massachusetts and another in the heart of New Mexico. It is working with Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners on a bid to build an offshore wind farm in waters off the coast of Massachusetts. That partnership is known as Vineyard Wind.
Offshore Wind In Massachusetts
Deepwater Wind, which built the first offshore wind farm in the waters off of Block Island, Rhode Island last year, has submitted a bid, as has Bay State Wind. Both have partnered with European manufacturers that have extensive experience making offshore wind turbines, according to the Portland Business Journal.
The initial phase of the Massachusetts plan calls for the installation of between 400 and 800 megawatts (MW) of power.
Avangrid feels it has an advantage over the other bidders because it has already filed for permits to build an 800 MW farm with state and federal officials. “By filing for construction permits, Vineyard Wind is on track to complete the permitting process in time to begin construction in 2019,” it said. Massachusetts expects to select the winning bid by April 23, 2018, and have signed contracts in hand by early July.
Fishermen Are Concerned
Some commercial fishermen are not happy with having dozens of wind turbines plunked down in the waters where they earn their living. Their concerns are understandable. The US fishing industry is suffering from declining stocks as warmer ocean temperatures send native species north in search of colder conditions. The waters in Vineyard Sound between Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard are notorious for fog banks that make navigation hazardous enough already.
“You ever see a radar picture of a wind farm? It’s just one big blob, basically,” Eric Hansen, a New Bedford scallop boat owner tells CBS News. “Transit through it will be next to impossible, especially in heavy wind and fog.” Hansen’s family has earned its living on the waters off Massachusetts for generations.
Wind developers are sensitive to the fishermen’s concerns. “We want to do this the right way, and I believe we have a path to do that,” said Matthew Morrissey, a vice president at Deepwater Wind. “There’s a lot more in common between these industries than pulling them apart,” says Edward Anthes-Washburn, executive director of the port of New Bedford where Hansen keeps his scallop dragger. He believes wind farms will provide fishermen with extra work and attract new investment to the port area.
Stephen Boutwell, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees wind farm developments in federal waters, says his agency is addressing concerns raised by fishermen. Some fish habitats off the coasts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York are protected from wind farm development. It has also commissioned studies to determine what effect wind farm construction and electromagnetic fields in the vicinity of the turbines may have on fish populations.
More than anything, the fishermen are wary of new rules and regulations that will make wresting a living from the sea even more difficult than it is already. The best way to keep them from organizing active resistance to wind farms in the ocean is to give them a voice in the permitting and design process so their concerns are validated. In the case of Deepwater Wind and the turbines off Block Island, some boat captains are reporting a whole new business opportunity has arisen — transporting curious landlubbers out to sea to view the turbines at close range. Call it eco-tourism if you wish. It could become a new source of income for boat owners.
Avangrid Wind Farm Blooms In New Mexico
Avangrid is also poised to begin construction of a 142 wind turbine installation in Torrance County, New Mexico. The project will cover 87,000 acres, some of them leased from the state of New Mexico through its State Land Office, according to Albuquerque Business First. The El Cabo Wind Farm project will produce 250 megawatts of renewable energy, enough to supply the electrical needs of 60,000 residential and commercial customers.
New Mexico is enjoying a boom in wind energy. The El Cabo project will be the largest in the state but Xcel Energy has plans on the drawing board for an $865 million 522 MW installation known as the Sagamore Wind Project. It could power 194,000 homes and businesses once it is completed. New Mexico currently has about 750 MW of installed wind power.
That will soon be added to when a 20 MW wind project known as Cowboy Ridge comes into existence. That facility will cover 1600 acres also leased from the State Land Office. The lease is for 50 years. Cowboy Ridge is owned by Pattern Energy, which is based in San Francisco.
Wind Power Here To Stay In US
Despite the assault on renewable energy currently in vogue in Washington, DC, wind power continues to enjoy support from the federal government, including $100 million for renewable energy research programs to be funded by ARPA-E in the next year. While the president may elect to impose tariffs on foreign-made solar cells and panels early next year, funding for wind farms seems to be safe from the executive scalpel — at least for now.