December 15th, 2018 by Derek Markham
President* Trump touched off a hornet’s nest when he greenlighted offshore oil and gas exploration along the Atlantic coast, but meanwhile the coal-killing US offshore wind industry is already staking its claim to the coastal region. In the latest development, on Friday a partnership between Royal Dutch Shell and EDP Renewables nailed down the winning $135 million bid for offshore wind development rights in the waters of Massachusetts.
Wait, what’s all this about Mayflower?
More Offshore Wind, Less Coal For Massachusetts
In terms of decarbonization and other environmental issues, Shell has a long, long (long) row to hoe. However, the company has been developing a low carbon roadmap and it has made some sharp moves in the renewable energy and clean tech fields.
Recent projects of interest include a “rolling” EV charging network in the EU and a clean tech accelerator partnership with the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory, as well as offshore wind projects.
As for Mayflower, that is the name of record on the winning Massachusetts bid, but what’s in a name? Mayflower is a joint venture between EDP’s EDPR Offshore North America LLC and Shell’s Shell New Energies US LLC.
The partners are looking at a total capacity of 1.6 gigawatts, which translates into the electricity demand of about 680,000 average homes in Massachusetts.
As for the coal-killing angle, coal is actually not a major player in the power generation landscape of Massachusetts, and it won’t be long before it fades entirely away. As recently as 2014, coal accounted for just 6% or 1.6 gigawatts of generating capacity in Massachusetts — just about equal to the new capacity anticipated from the Mayflower venture.
Massachusetts is squarely in the middle of the New England ISO grid network, and they paint a gloomy picture for coal in the state and the region. Within the next 10 years, they foresee the possibility that coal could disappear completely, mainly in favor of natural gas as well as renewables. The region’s nuclear power plants are also on shaky ground.
No, Really — What’s In A Name?
So, back to that Mayflower name. Mayflower and Massachusetts go together like rice and beans, so there’s that. Mayflower is the name of the boat that carried 102 Puritan refugee immigrants in search of a better life, from England to Massachusetts in 1620.
Another name for those early US immigrants is Pilgrims, and that’s where there might be something more than rice and beans in play.
Pilgrim happens to be the name adopted by the Pilgrim Pipeline Company, which has been trying to engineer a Koch-related project that would create a new route for petroleum-based fuels to travel to New England, from refineries and/or pipeline terminals in New Jersey.
The Koch angle kicks in with the industrial family’s stake in the Colonial pipeline, which carries massive amounts of petroleum-based fuels from Gulf Coast refineries to distribution points in the southeast and on up to New Jersey. The proposed Pilgrim project would provide Colonial with a direct connection to the New England market (for the record, the Pilgrim project is actually two parallel lines; the other line would carry crude oil in the opposite direction, from North Dakota down to refineries in New Jersey with the ultimate goal of reaching overseas markets).
Meanwhile, Colonial has been “quietly shopping” a major expansion of its carrying capacity, so there’s that.
So, is the Mayflower name is a warning shot to the Koch brothers, like maybe a hint that their plan for building a bigger fossil fuel footprint in New England is going to run into stiff headwinds (lol so to speak), in the form of competition from offshore wind energy?
If you have any thoughts about that, drop us a note in the comment thread.
Offshore Wind: America’s Sleeping Renewable Energy Giant
Circling back around to Friday’s Massachusetts offshore wind auction, if you haven’t been following the US offshore wind market that might seem like a curious one-off, especially considering President* Trump’s fossil-friendly energy policy and his antipathy toward offshore wind energy in particular (just ask Scotland!).
Well, it’s curious all right, but it’s not a one-off. It’s a piece of a much larger offshore wind pie. Atlantic coast offshore wind development is actually the only notable Obama-era program that is continuing apace under the Trump administration, without any apparent interference from the White House.
The offshore wind lease program is a major renewable energy initiative. Unfortunately it foundered soon after its launch in 2010, partly due to the efforts of Koch-funded governors and legislators in New Jersey and several other Atlantic Coast states.
A Koch family member was also a financial force behind the death of the ill-fated Cape Wind project in Massachusetts. The project was first proposed all the way back in 2001, before the Interior Department organized its lease program (the US Army Corps of Engineers was the lead agency back then).
For a while there, Cape Wind was on track to become the nation’s first ever offshore wind farm. Oh, well.
Anyways, that was then. For some reason under the Trump years, the Interior Department’s lease program is going full steam ahead along with a healthy dose of support from the US Department of Energy.
That DOE support is not hot air, either. In addition to contributing ongoing R&D through its existing network, last year DOE organized a brand new wind energy research hub with the aim of accelerating both offshore wind development.
Last summer DOE tapped New York State for the honor of hosting the new Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium. Earlier this year New York also announced its own $6 billion economic development plan for wind energy.
Weird, right? If you have any thoughts about that, leave us a note in the comment thread.
Meanwhile, CleanTechnica is reaching out to EDP for some additional insights into the Shell partnership.
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Photo: via US Department of Energy.