With lingering, albeit dwindling, controversy over an offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound as a backdrop, a recently released study envisions wind power playing a greater role in the future of New England.
At the request of New England’s six governors, ISO New England Inc., the operator of the region’s bulk power system and wholesale electricity markets, recently released the results of a months-long study evaluating renewable-resource potential in the region and beyond, as well as the economic and environmental impacts of that development.
The technical analysis was used as a basis for the initial draft of the “New England Governors’ Renewable Energy Blueprint,” prepared by the New England States Committee on Electricity and recently shared with the New England governors for their consideration. Through this process, regional policymakers hope to identify the available sources of renewable energy—both here and in neighboring regions—and determine the most effective means to encourage development of those resources across New England’s power grid.
The objective of this study was to evaluate a hypothetical future power system under a number of scenarios. The study focused primarily on wind development but also considered other resources such as energy efficiency, plug-in electric vehicles, expanded imports and energy storage.
The study concluded that New England has significant potential for developing renewable sources of energy within the region, including substantial inland and offshore wind resources. It identified the potential for up to 12,000 megawatts of wind resources within New England that, if developed, would represent a major shift in the sources of energy and characteristics of resources operating in the region.
Of course, the full potential of wind power development will not be feasible without an equally aggressive investment in transmission projects to help transport the power. Toward that end, the study finds that focusing on offshore wind-resource integration results in the most cost-effective use of new and existing transmission.
This last finding is noteworthy in light of the years-long controversy surrounding the Cape Wind project, a 130-turbine, offshore development proposed for the Nantucket Sound. The project is inching toward approval and could be a catalyst for more offshore wind-power development in the region, if it is approved and built.