Touted as the nation’s first-ever “offshore transmission highway,” the proposed Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) high-voltage power line in theory could foster dozens of wind farms in shallow...
With no guidance yet from FERC, Atlantic Wind is forced to wait.
consider the AWC Project as an interconnection option for the GSOE Project, it also is exploring other interconnection options… Deepwater Wind will continue to develop offshore generation, including the GSOE Project, regardless of the existence of the AWC Project.”
Too Much Backbone?
For the long run, perhaps the most important question pending in the Atlantic Wind case concerns whether offshore wind farms should connect to the land-based interstate grid via a single backbone grid system, or through individual, project-specific radial tie lines, each fashioned specifically to serve a single wind farm or cluster of closely located turbine projects.
Atlantic Wind touts its backbone design as “a systems approach to transmission planning for offshore wind, rather than the construction of transmission in reaction to sporadic individual generator interconnection requests.”
And Brattle’s Pfeifenberger and Newell argue further:
“It is highly unlikely that the individual radial tie-line approach can produce offshore wind in the quantities needed to accommodate existing RPS requirements, much less produce the economic, reliability, and carbon benefits that the AWC backbone approach provides.”
The AWC project wins support on this point from the Maryland Energy Administration, which states that “backbone subsea HVDC transmission, linking multiple offshore wind farms and energy markets is an excellent way to both decrease the cost of developing an offshore wind farm by eliminating the need to develop individual radial lines … as well as increasing the value of that power by aggregating wind energy over a broader geographic scope of deployment in order to reduce intermittency.”
Yet New Jersey Rate Counsel Stefanie Brand and District of Columbia Interim People’s Counsel Brenda Pennington claim that, if one looks at historic examples, such as the Eastern and Western Interconnections, and even natural-gas gathering systems in the Gulf of Mexico, that energy resource development “commonly proceeds radially, with a looping overlay added later if and only if the radial development succeeds.”
Brand and Pennington in effect argue that the generation should come first, and transmission second:
“A coastwise configuration,” they claim, “amounts to a centrally planned, multi-billion-dollar societal bet on the future economics of far-offshore wind.
“In contrast,” they argue, “a radial configuration, by linking transmission siting to generation siting, relies on the market’s forecast of future wind generation sales.”
Most remarkable is the fact that Atlantic Wind and its protesters each seize on the existence of state laws promoting renewable energy and offshore wind as evidence for its own particular theory: be it backbone or radial.
Thus, New Jersey’s Brand and D.C.’s Pennington point out that state policymakers so far have adopted laws that would favor individual, project-specific wind installations with radial interconnections to the mainland grid, in a way that allows state regulators to link offshore wind development with particular rate-making stipulations or funding mechanisms that balance cost and risk with state-specific economic goals. A backbone system, they argue, “could be seen as side-stepping the state regulatory ratemaking treatment,” thereby “undermin[ing] state offshore wind policies.”
They offer expert witness testimony from economist David Dismukes, who cites certain “hard-fought” agreements ironed-out by state politicians—deals he says would have to