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Massachusetts puts grid backbone on the back burner

4C Offshore | James Bernthal-Hooker
By: James Bernthal-Hooker 03/08/2020 DOER
The state of Massachusetts has for now shelved potential plans to solicit up to 1.6 GW of independent grid transmission alongside offshore wind procurements.

Following consultation with developers, the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has determined that ‘the costs and risks of a solicitation for independent offshore wind energy transmission outweigh the potential benefits’.

Massachusetts is expected to procure at least 1.6 GW of offshore wind by 2030 in addition to the 1.6 GW it has already secured. Back in May 2019, DOER seriously considered the possibility of procuring independent grid transmission at the same time. On 3rd March 2020, DOER and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Centre (MassCEC) hosted a technical conference on offshore wind transmission in Boston. This was followed by a request for comment, the results of which have led to DOER’s conclusion.

Compared to some other states on the east coast of the United States, Massachusetts offshore wind ambition – 3.2 GW by 2035 – is relatively modest. DOER found ‘considerable stakeholder support’ for a ‘backbone’ or ‘networked’ independent transmission approach ‘at a larger scale’ but found that a ‘solicitation for 1,600 MW transmission capacity is too limiting to yield an offshore transmission grid that could be used as a platform for future offshore wind development for Massachusetts or the region.’

DOER has also suggested that independent transmission at this stake would introduce risks, including delays and coordination issues. Several stakeholders emphasized a need for ‘long-term and large-scale planning’ of a New England transmission system. There are some plans in place for an offshore wind backbone approach in New England, notably Anbaric’s New England Ocean Grid proposal.

DOER is now revising recommendations for future offshore wind solicitations in Massachusetts. For instance, it is suggesting that the next auction – in 2022 – be for the full 1.6 GW being targeted under current legislation, rather than 800 MW as previously scheduled.

This story was first reported exclusively for 4C Offshore subscribers. For more information, click here


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