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Steady as she goes: Connecticut, aka the "Land of Steady Habits," seeks clean offshore wind energy to the tune of 2,000 megawatts by 2030.

Clean Power

US Offshore Wind Race Heats Up, Now Connecticut In The Mix

Steady as she goes: Connecticut, aka the “Land of Steady Habits,” seeks clean offshore wind energy to the tune of 2,000 megawatts by 2030.

Let’s hear it for Connecticut, the Land of Steady Habits. True to its nickname, Connecticut is seeking zero emission electricity offshore, where the winds blow strong and steady. All that lies between The Constitution State and 2,000 megawatts of clean kilowatts is Governor Ned Lamont’s John Hancock — and it looks like he’ll sign the state onto offshore wind just in time to knock Connecticut’s Millstone nuclear power plant out of the picture.

Nuclear Energy Foundering On Offshore Wind Seas

Anyone who is concerned about the withering away of the US nuclear power plant fleet can see the problem in a nutshell swimming off the coast of Connecticut: renewable energy is cheaper and easier.

Connecticut’s 2,000-megawatt goal is set forth in new legislation that just passed the state Senate unanimously. All that’s left to do is for Governor Lamont to sign the bill and it’s off to the races. According to a report in the Connecticut Mirror, the initial solicitation round is set to kick off a mere two weeks after the signing, with the aim of getting all 2,000 megawatts in the water by 2030.

As the Mirror’s Jan Ellen Spiegel points out, that’s just around the time that the 2,088-megawatt Millstone nuclear power plant is set to expire, under the terms of a new deal with owner Dominion Energy.

And it’s about time! The plant’s two reactors date back to 1975 and 1986. Dominion has been up-front about the plant’s ability to compete against other fuels in the “current low power price environment.” Reuters has more:

Power prices in New England over the past five years have been the lowest ever, according to Reuters data going back to 2000, due to increasing use of generators fired with cheap natural gas from shale formations and renewables like wind and solar.

That makes it tough for facilities using other sources of energy like coal and nuclear to compete.

Ya don’t say!

More Offshore Wind Power For Connecticut

As if Connecticut lawmakers didn’t need any more reason to press for more offshore wind power, the Vogtle nuclear power plant debacle provides ample evidence that not all zero emission energy is created equal.

The big challenge is going to be replacing Millstone’s zero emission kilowatts with new, less expensive ones. As of now, the plant accounts for almost all of the zero emission electricity produced in Connecticut, and provides about half of its electricity demand, to boot.

It’s going to be a tricky transition to manage, but the nation’s electricity grid connects across state borders and Connecticut is smack in the middle of the red-hot Atlantic Coast offshore wind race. The state is nestled into the same region as Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New York, which already have their sticky fingers deep in the offshore honey pot.

New Jersey, which hit the doldrums under former Governor Chris Christie, is also catching up to the rest of the offshore wind pack in the northeastern US.

Egging everyone on is the US Department of Energy, which just set up a major new wind energy R&D hub to accelerate the US wind industry.

The Renewable Hydrogen Connection

That brings up a good question: with the world’s top offshore wind companies all competing for a slice of the US offshore pie, northeastern states could end up with more clean kilowatts than they know what to do with.

Well, they could take a look over at the Netherlands, where Ørsted is hatching up a plan to link its Dutch offshore wind farms with renewable hydrogen production.

Come to think of it, earlier this spring CleanTechnica attended a wind industry conference in New York, and that very topic came up.

The idea is that offshore renewable hydrogen production could make sense in regions where the onshore grid can’t handle massive new amounts of incoming electrons from the sea.

Offshore hydrogen production could also apply where regional electricity demand is too low to support new power plants. Hydrogen provides alternative transmission options in the form of a liquid or a gas, or it could be used on site to power offshore industrial facilities.

The renewable hydrogen angle also dovetails with Connecticut state policy regarding fuel cell and hydrogen technology. If you have any thoughts about that, drop us a note in the comment thread.

Meanwhile, Ørsted is one of the global wind powerhouses gaining a foothold in the US offshore market, so we’ll check in with them to see if renewable hydrogen could be in play for the US, too.

Follow me on Twitter.

Photo (cropped) Block Island wind farm in Rhode Island, via Ørsted.

 
 
 
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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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