NEWS: New Breeze for Offshore Wind; AEE Members Raise the Bar

Posted by Lexie Briggs on Nov 20, 2015 10:11:11 AM


A couple of weeks ago we declared that American offshore wind was ready for its close up… almost. This week we saw more wind on the blades for offshore wind, as well as news from a number of AEE member companies. We’ll show you which way the wind is blowing in this week’s news round-up.

When it comes to offshore wind, Massachusetts has been out in front, only to be swept back. Despite all sorts of headwinds, Cape Wind was supposed to be the first U.S. offshore wind farm, but those hopes seemed dashed when utilities National Grid and Northeast Utilities pulled out of their contracts because Cape Wind failed to close financing for construction. Still, Jim Gordon, president of Cape Wind, hasn’t given up. “We think we’ve got a terrific project in a great location,” he said.

Now, another developer claims to have a better project in a better location. Dong Energy, the world’s largest developer of offshore wind, has proposed a new project off the coast of Massachusetts – one that could be the world’s largest. The proposed 1,000 MW wind farm, called Bay State Wind, would be located 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, which is twice as far from land as the Cape Wind project. That’s far enough to get the backhanded blessing of Cape Wind’s nemesis, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.

“It’s absolutely a better plan” than Cape Wind, said Audra Parker, president of the Alliance. “We find these areas to be far more superior” to Cape Wind’s location nestled between the Massachusetts islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket and the Cape Cod peninsula.

As Utility Dive points out, though, Dong’s Bay State Wind would only be the biggest project if it managed to beat the other “world’s largest wind farm” projects proposed in South Korea, Sweden, and the UK. An American firm, Deepwater Wind, also has an open proposal for a 1,200 MW project next door to the proposed Bay State Wind, close to the spot where it has already “broken water” with construction of a small demonstration project off Rhode Island’s Block Island, which now looks to be the first in U.S. waters. So, when it comes to the biggest, everybody can just place a bet.

Massachusetts isn’t the only state on an offshore wind rollercoaster. Last month the New Jersey Supreme Court allowed a ruling to stand that “effectively blocks” construction of a pilot facility, despite incentives long in place but never approved by regulators. But last week, the U.S. Department of the Interior granted leases to two wind developers, including AEE member RES America Developments, to develop 344,000 acres of federal property off the Jersey Shore. The race for American offshore wind is still on (with Rhode Island now in the lead).

Meanwhile, back on land, AEE members are making waves of their own. Aclara, the St. Louis-based smart meter firm, acquired the smart meter arm of fellow AEE member General Electric this week. It’s a move that makes strengthens Aclara’s position in the advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) space. Aclara had largely been focused on small to mid-size utilities, especially municipal and rural electric utilities, but now is ready to go bigger. In picking up the meter business from GE – a giant in the field, having supplied utilities like Florida Power and Light and Pacific Gas and Electric – Aclara is benefiting from the restructuring of the electronics giant, which has also included the standing up of a new entity called Current, which combines lighting, solar, energy storage, and electric vehicle offerings with predictive analytics.

Katherine Tweed, writing in Greentech Media, says that the North American AMI market “isn’t particularly robust,” but notes that could be turning around. Nearly 60 million smart meters are already deployed, most of them installed with the help of federal Recovery Act dollars, and this year has been pretty slow for smart meters. Tweed expects the market to rebound at some point, possibly soon, with key states like New York and Massachusetts adopting policies to move toward a 21st century electricity system with grid modernization components that could boost demand for AMI.

AEE member Invenergy, a Chicago-based developer and operator of advanced energy generation and storage projects in North America and Europe, announced two corporate partnerships this week, both for wind power purchase agreements, and both coming from the company’s planned Wake Wind Facility near Lubbock, Texas. First, Invenergy announced that it is providing 125 MW of wind power to Owens Corning, the building materials giant. Invenergy also said it is partnering with Equinix in a 100 MW PPA, as it joins fellow internet industry giants Apple, Amazon, and Google in supporting data centers with renewable energy.

Both companies took part in the bevy of advanced energy commitments in the private sector last month. Equinix signed on to the Act on Climate Pledge with a goal of 100% advanced energy for its entire fleet of data centers – 103 in all, around the globe. Owens Corning, for its part, announced that it had smashed its previous goals, and is continuing to adopt more advanced energy products, policies, and projects toward a series of benchmarks it hopes to reach by 2020.

Energy storage, of course, plays a role in all of this. To this end, AEE member AES Energy Storage announced the first deployment of a new energy storage platform, the Advancion 4. This new generation of energy storage system comes backed by eight years of commercial experience operating grid-connected energy storage.

“Advancion 4 was developed to address the challenges faced in owning and operating the largest fleet of advanced battery-based energy storage projects,” said John Zahurancik, President of AES Energy Storage. “AES has a history of providing our customers with innovative solutions, and Advancion 4 raises the bar.”

Raising the bar. That’s a mission statement if we ever heard one. AEE member companies are always raising the bar.

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