Long Distance Offshore Transmission Breaking New Ground

It wasn’t that long ago that the ideal of transmitting electricity long distances was limited to 100 miles or so making the need for electricity production to be close to the user base. With the advent of offshore wind in Europe in particular and advances in HVDC technology in general the number of long haul offshore transmission projects is growing rapidly.

Two excellent examples of this are the Western Link in the UK and the Maritime Link in Canada.

Western Link Project Map

Western Link Project Map

Western Link
The Western Link project involves constructing a high voltage direct current cable that will help to bring large amounts of renewable energy from Scotland to homes and businesses in England and Wales. The amount of renewable energy being generated in Scotland is increasing rapidly, but this cannot be transferred south because the existing electricity links are running at full capacity.  A new link is needed and traditional overhead corridors of high voltage are next to impossible to permit any more, so the out of site, out of mind marine alternative was chosen. Western Link is owned by National Grid and Scottish Power Transmission being developed by Siemens and Prysmian and once completed will have a transmission capacity of around 2,200MW and a length of almost 400 kilometers.

More information about Western Link can be found here

Maritime Link Project Map

Maritime Link Project Map

Maritime Link
In July 2014 ABB was awarded a contract valued at approximately $400 million from NSP Maritime Link Inc., a subsidiary of Emera Inc., to supply a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) power transmission solution creating the first electricity link between the island of Newfoundland and the North American power grid.

When operational, the Maritime Link will have a transmission capacity of 500MW at a length of over 180 kilometers and be used primarily to bring Hydroelectric power from the Lower Churchill project now being constructed in Labrador to the North American grid.

More information about Maritime Link can be found here:

The combination of growth in offshore renewable energy, the constant need for transmission investment, the difficulty of permitting overhead systems generally along with advances in long-distance transmission is resulting in real projects being build today.

Posted in Alternative Energy, Offshore Transmission, Transmission | Leave a comment

5GW Massachusetts Offshore Lease Announced

On June 17, 2014, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank joined Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to announced that more than 742,000 acres offshore Massachusetts will be available for commercial wind energy leasing. The proposed area is the largest in federal waters and will nearly double the federal offshore acreage available for commerical-scale wind energy projects. For more information, click here.

Map Showing the Massachusetts Call for Information and Nominations Area

Posted in Alternative Energy, Climate Change, Offshore Wind | Leave a comment

WCG to represent Tekmar Energy in North America

Tekmar Energy Limited, the leading supplier of cable protection systems for the offshore wind and oil & gas markets globally, has announced an agency agreement with the Massachusetts-based Whitman Consulting Group Inc. (WCG).  Beginning immediately, WCG will represent Tekmar as its commercial services agent for the full line of Tekmar products and services in the US, Canada and the Caribbean. WCG will focus on the offshore renewable energy markets for wind and marine hydrokinetic as well as oil & gas and high voltage offshore transmission.

Tekmar has an excellent established track record of success having worked on over 27 major offshore wind farms and supplied over 3,000 systems since its entry into the market.

“North American projects are finally underway and the Whitman Consulting Group has the experience and expertise we were looking for to ensure we will be well represented in this important market.” said James Ritchie, Chief Executive Officer at Tekmar Energy. “We look forward to working with WCG in ensuring that project developers identify and avoid the common issues and risks related to their cable systems by protecting their cable investment properly.”

The full press release can be found here: 05.2014 Tekmar-WCG announcement

Posted in Alternative Energy, Cable Protection, Offshore Engineering, Offshore Transmission, Offshore Wind | Comments Off

Ocean Readiness

The development of offshore renewable energy is a new industry for North America with the first projects currently working their way through the development process. In Europe however constructing utility scale offshore wind farms has been underway for well over a decade, with thousands of turbines now installed offshore, producing several gigawatts of clean, renewable energy.

In North America, we have an opportunity to learn from this experience to ensure that the projects here benefit from the lessons learned in Europe and elsewhere. In the area of workforce development the importance of properly preparing the women and men who will do the actual work offshore in a manner which is safe and results in a high quality installation could not be more important.

To that end WCG is pleased to announce that it is a founding member of Ocean Readiness. Ocean Readiness works with all types of interested parties from organized labor and government agencies to project developers and their suppliers to ensure that Americans are ready to safely work in the emerging offshore renewable energy market.

In the end, we all want the same thing for the projects in our local waters: Many Arms, Common Goals: Safety & Quality.


Posted in Alternative Energy, Climate Change, Offshore Wind, workforce readiness | Comments Off

Advances in Marine Hydro-Kinetic (MHK) technology

I had the opportunity to attend the Global Marine Renewable Energy Conference held earlier this month (April 15-18) in Seattle. For those who haven’t been it is the only US national conference I am aware of which has the Marine Hydro-Kinetic (MHK) technology and related market development as its focus. While there is no denying that this is an early stage market, the range of innovation and possibility with this type of technology cannot be denied.

There are three MHK test centers being proposed for the US, (Hawai’i, Florida and Oregon) and to get a sense of the state of play for the MHK industry in the US maybe the best place to start is the one in Oregon. The National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NMREC), it is a partnership between Oregon State University and the University of Washington. Their most high profile project is the development of the Pacific Marine Energy Center or PMEC.

PMEC will be the first-of-its-kind in the US facility able to test the energy generation potential and the environmental impacts of wave energy devices, at an ocean site about five miles from shore. Subsea cables will transmit energy from the wave energy devices to the local power grid, and data to scientists and engineers at on-shore facilities.

As MHK an emerging technology type, having a location which can provide a grid connected infrastructure on which a prototype can be tested, will allow developers to focus on their device designs knowing they will be able to deploy them in the ocean when they are ready to go: A huge step forward. An excellent article on the plans for PMEC can be found here.

While not nearly as advanced as wind energy, the potential for energy produced from MHK sources cannot be understated. From the perspective of transmission, the development of offshore systems designed for their security benefits and to relieve congestion in places where overhead cables cannot be permitted or connecting grids that are not contiguous is increasingly becoming a planning reality in many places throughout the world.

Considering all the types of energy which could be added to such systems, such as wind or MHK only makes it more likely that in coastal regions with high amounts of electricity usage, few local electricity production alternatives and who are serious about adding utility scale renewable alternatives to their mix, these types of technologies along with the jobs and industry which go with them, will find a good home.

Posted in Alternative Energy, Climate Change, Marine Hydro-Kinetic, Offshore Transmission | Comments Off

Creating a Cost-Effective Offshore Wind Power Grid & Transmission Infrastructure: What are the practicalities?

The following is a transcript of a speech given by Bryan Sanderson, Senior Vice President, Anbaric Transmission at the Offshore Wind Power USA conference held February 2014 in Boston, Ma.

Good morning, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to stand up here and opine for a few minutes on offshore transmission.

Before I do that, for those of you not familiar with Anbaric Transmission, I’d like to take a couple of minutes to give you a little background about us. We are an independent company that has been behind two successfully developed HVDC Projects – the Neptune Regional Transmission System, and the Hudson Transmission Project. Each of these are 660MW HVDC connections from PJM to Long Island and Manhattan respectively, and each were awarded through competitive RFP processes. As an independent, each of our projects must rest on its fundamental economics.

We have a few other projects in our pipeline:

  • Green Line: The Green Line will be a 1000 MW HVDC tie from northern Maine into the greater-Boston area, designed to connect remote wind resources to load.
  • Grand Isle Intertie: The GII will be a 400 MW connection from Plattsburgh, NY into Burlington, VT – like Green Line, the goal of this project is to connect incremental wind resources into the ISO-NE market.
  • Poseidon: Poseidon is very similar to Neptune – bringing 500 MW of power from central NJ to Long Island.
  • And lastly, the Bay State OSW Tmx System

I think the title of this session was well chosen – “Creating a Cost-Effective Offshore Wind Power Grid & Transmission Infrastructure: What are the practicalities?” I say this because the practicalities may dictate that best offshore grid we can build right now may not the most cost effective on the basis of $/MWh delivered, nor the most elegant from a technical or engineering perspective, nor the most robust platform for connecting thousands of megawatts of offshore projects. But for now, that’s OK – we need to start somewhere.

Julia and her colleagues at Green Power Conferences have asked us to comment on several areas within this broader subject – a few of which are:

  • Trends in development and financing
  • The cost implications of creating the ‘right’ transmission infrastructure
  • Whether offshore transmission should be financed independently or as a backbone; and
  • What innovations could the US adopt from the Europeans

I’ll try to address each of these – at least tangentially – through the story of our own Bay State Offshore Wind Transmission System.

At Anbaric we first started thinking seriously about creating an offshore transmission grid in 2009. During our initial planning, we recognized the inefficiencies of running dedicated transmission lines from each project to the shore, and the conflicts that would likely arise as multiple projects tried to connect into the limited subset of landing spots that are environmentally, electrically, and economically desirable. We looked for other industries that might have these same challenges, and thought offshore oil & gas might be a good model – there are thousands of oil & gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, and they share a handful of highly networked pipeline systems to move their products to shore. Well, it turns out that oil & gas is quite a mature industry with deep and liquid markets for their products, which happen to carry good margins, and those pipeline systems weren’t built overnight.

POINT 1: The practical cost-effective grid must be sized to meet the needs of the industry it’s meant to service. In the current world – where offshore wind does not compete on a $/MWh basis with available on-shore resources – the pace and size of development will be determined by policy, and we’ve yet to see any policy that truly supports the large-scale deployment of offshore wind, and by policy, I mean financeable contracts.

So, we sat back for a bit to see where policy would lead. Between 2009-2011 we saw BOEM take a more proactive role by designating the wind energy areas and beginning the leasing processes. The state of Massachusetts had released its Ocean Management Plan and held an RFI for both offshore wind and transmission, and had stated a goal of developing up to 4000 MW of offshore wind. This represented some progress. Though we still liked the idea of building a networked system to bring thousands of MW of wind to shore, we recognized that the costs to do so in advance of the generation would be prohibitive and unlikely to win political favor.

POINT 2: Offshore transmission is expensive, and financing it will require a commitment by somebody to pay for it – either the wind generators themselves, the RTO’s through a FERC-Order 1000 public policy mechanism, or the states through some vehicle to be determined. As an independent transmission developer, the one question we ask ourselves every day is “who is our customer?” The answer to this question will determine the transmission system that gets built. Financing by the generators will almost guarantee a series of radial interconnects. Only through some sort of broader cost allocation can larger, more efficient grids be developed, and these require planning.

So we revised our plans from a networked system to two 1,000 MW radial interconnections into southeastern Massachusetts, each of which could accommodate multiple farms. This meant that we A) could build at a scale large enough to capture economies of scale, B) avoid the technological risk of implementing a network, and C) could build in phases, timed along with the wind farms, reducing the risk of stranded costs.

Well, a couple more years have passed since we filed the above plans with ISO-NE, and we’ve yet to see the concrete policies put in place that could support both offshore generation and transmission.  There is hope that the actions by the Maryland Governor and Legislature and the recent coordination among the New England Governors and NESCOE will lead to something positive for the industry. But I suspect that in the near term, this will mean hundreds of MW deployed, not the thousands we’ve all been hoping and working so hard for.

This brings me to my THIRD POINT: The optimal offshore grid will also be an evolving system – if the industry starts with smaller, isolated projects, it makes sense to build a smaller, project specific grid. But as the industry develops and we begin to see thousands of real MWs on the horizon, then we can start to talk about big integrated systems. Anbaric remains flexible in its approach, and we’re happy to build whatever system is optimal for the wind projects that will be built.

Lastly, the question was asked “What innovative approaches could the US take from Europe and the supergrid?” My answer is not a technical one, but rather “get the policy right to support the industry for the long term.” This is no longer a science experiment – it works. Let’s do it. Once we begin to build actual projects on a sustained basis, engineers and entrepreneurs will have incentive to tackle the hard problems and bring innovation.

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US Grid Security? Everything is Just Fine

On March 12 the Wall Street Journal published an article (subscription required) about the security of the US electricity grid and its extreme vulnerability. Later that day the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a statement criticizing the WSJ for its story.

“Today’s publication by The Wall Street Journal of sensitive information about the grid undermines the careful work done by professionals who dedicate their careers to providing the American people with a reliable and secure grid. The Wall Street Journal has appropriately declined to identify by name particularly critical substations throughout the country. Nonetheless, the publication of other sensitive information is highly irresponsible. While there may be value in a general discussion of the steps we take to keep the grid safe, the publication of sensitive material about the grid crosses the line from transparency to irresponsibility, and gives those who would do us harm a roadmap to achieve malicious designs. The American people deserve better.”

That is true, the American people do deserve better. Taking a look out my window I see victorian age technology. A weary row of decades old wooden poles overburdened with every type of cabling. Mile after mile, they lean in every direction, interrupted by the occasional rats nests of spliced wires sprouting out of rusted junction boxes. It is upon this system, developed by generations long past that our way of life rests, with minimal investment and a lot of hope that it will somehow just keep on running.

In late 2012 the National Research Council issued an excellent report with takes up the issues surrounding grid security. “The U.S. electric power delivery system is vulnerable to terrorist attacks that could cause much more damage to the system than natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, blacking out large regions of the country for weeks or months and costing many billions of dollars”

Just yesterday Utility Dive released an excellent article pointing out the following: “If nine key substations are knocked out, the U.S. could suffer a crippling coast-to-coast blackout for 18 months — or more.”

So really, if a bunch of reporters and researchers can, by simply doing their jobs come up with these details, does anyone really think the bad guys can’t do this too?

So who can fix it? Utilities? They can’t even set their own prices because of our consumer need to believe that “electricity is cheap.” Electricity producers? Nope, this is a pure commodity business, they can’t make a profit unless they keep things “cheap” also.

The problem is us. Sorry to say, we have absolved ourselves of investing in ourselves and our national infrastructure. Unless things change, this is our legacy. What previous generations bequeathed to us we have largely failed to maintain and improve. We hire a government who rather than admit the obvious, instead criticizes the press for doing its job.

So today when you are driving around your town, notice those weary poles and thank your great-grandparents for building a really great system, thank the utilities for keeping it running on a shoestring, thank the power producers for keeping everything so cheap for us. And perhaps most importantly, lets thank ourselves for keeping a government in place who so effectively tells us just what we want to hear.

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Understanding Offshore Project Risk through Data Management

The high cost of developing offshore wind is often sited as one of the main drawbacks for further adoption of the technology. There are several strong arguments which challenge this notion including the fact that it is an emerging sector still in an R&D heavy phase, the long-term truth that after project capitalization the long-term variable fuel costs are free, the price suppression effect this creates for legacy technology (an effect now being seen in Europe where renewable production is reaching critical mass. Taking this into account though, there are areas in which better overall project planning and management should do result in consistent quality and price improvements.

In the UK a major cost reduction effort launched by the Offshore Wind Cost Reduction Pathways Study is well underway. Just this month DNV KEMA released its subsea cable guidelines, a years long joint industry project which does an excellent job of beginning to establish best practices for installing power cables offshore – an area in which the industry has seen a great deal of turmoil to date.

One area which is somewhat less glamorous but which has been shown in other industries to be able to transform and improve cost models over time is with data management. In January an £850,000 effort called the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, was launched by The Crown Estate and several offshore wind farm owners and operators. The plan is to build a database to store anonymised data that will improve safety, reliability and availability, helping companies identify operational improvements and cost reduction opportunities internally and for the wider sector.

This is a huge step in the right direction. Offshore wind project developers spend tens of millions on gathering the necessary data to map out turbine siting and the corresponding balance of plant including the cables, substations and the necessary shore side facilities. This ranges from weather information to sea conditions throughout the year and over time, to water column information, seabed conditions, existing seabed users such as fishing interests, oil & gas or telecommunications – the list goes on.

As can be easily imagined, managing this wide and deep range of data comes with significant complexity. Like all systems in the natural world interdependency is the norm – add engineered structures, hundreds of them, into the mix and the data analysis requirements grow exponentially. A good example of data management tools being developed in this area is what Uni Research is doing in the area of site planning.

Another example of proactive data management can be found at TÜV SÜD PMSS with its multi-contracting project management systems and its effort to de-risk the construction process. That’s what it all comes down to – project risk, operating risk, financial risk – and if the risk cannot be parsed and quantified throughout all aspects of the projects, then it is assumed to be high – and if the risk is high, then the costs associated with building, insuring and operating are going to be high as well. These installations are designed to be operational for decades so the data gathered and organized today will provide the foundation for our being able to cost effectively solve the problems which will arise tomorrow.

To that end, data management and analysis will play a major role in de-risking, and ultimately reducing the overall costs of installing and maintaining windfarms offshore. Just think, by managing data effectively companies such as Google and Amazon know everything about us. If the data of our personal habits has such value surely gathering and managing data for offshore windfarms for decades to come will have some value as well.

Posted in Alternative Energy, Data Management, Ocean Planning, Offshore Engineering, Offshore Transmission, Offshore Wind | Comments Off

Which way forward? Planning for or Ignoring Climate Change

In another example of the interesting juxtaposition that characterizes US climate change policy, long time climate change denier, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) announced Tuesday (Feb 4, 2014) his plans to introduce a bill allowing states to opt-out of Environmental Protection Agency regulations on power plants, saying that the regulations will cause winter blackouts. As evidence for the necessity of this opt-out plan he pointed out that January has been one of the coldest months on record, therefore disproving claims that there is global warming and climate change.
The full story can be found here

In contrast to the Senator from Oklahoma, On January 17th Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced a $50 million plan to help his state prepare for the effects of climate change. “The question is not whether we need to act. We’re past that,” Patrick said. “The world’s climate is changing and human activity is contributing to that change. Massachusetts needs to be ready.”

According to an article published by the Boston Herald, administration officials say Massachusetts is already feeling the effects of climate change, citing five major storms since 2010, a significant rise in Eastern Equine Encephalitis in mosquitoes that led to aerial spraying in 2012, and the 2013 closure of oyster beds for the first time in state history because of vibrio parahaemolyticus (a type of dangerous bacteria)

The city of Boston, like New York City, and others up and down the East Coast are located at sea level and are often on the front lines of environmental change. Recognizing this change for what it is and preparing for the inevitable impact it will have on our infrastructure, our economy and our ecology seems to be the only responsible course of action.

There is no doubt, it will be difficult to transition from our old ways (however useful and profitable they have been to us in the past) to environmentally friendly new ways of living. Continuing to deny vast scientific consensus in an attempt to further delay action will exacerbate the problem making these inevitable changes even harder and more costly.

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Market Developments in Japan and the US

Beginning 2014 on an upbeat note are two developing stories (not occurring in Europe which is the center of the offshore wind market) that no doubt will continue to capture industry headlines throughout the year.

First is in Japan with the impressive progress of The Fukushima Floating Offshore Wind Farm Demonstration Project (FORWARD).

The 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami as part of its terrible impact, hit a nuclear reactor in the Fukushima Prefecture of Japan, resulting in one of the most dangerous nuclear accidents of our times. As part of its response, the Japanese government has made a massive and sustained commitment to the development and deployment of renewable energy, in particular offshore wind.

Due to the ultra-deep water around Japan, the technology required for offshore wind was unique in that the foundations which support turbines with a nameplate capacity of 7MW, needed to float. The newest generation of these turbines stand some 187 meters (613 feet) above the surface of the water with blades over 80 meters in length.

FORWARD deployed the worlds first grid connected floating turbines in 2013 and is comprised of a consortium of Industry, Government and research institutions. The initial development off the coast of Fukushima anticipates a total project investment of ¥18.8 billion and is being rolled out in two phases which are expected to be completed in 2015. The full story of the project and its expected economic impact can be found here.

What is impressive about all of this is the level of commitment and support it has been given at all levels and the speed to which it is being executed. With a global wind power market forecast to grow to ¥4.3 trillion by 2020, clearly Japanese industry is positioning itself for a leadership position.

The other positive news is that the Cape Wind project, which is being developed off the coast of Massachusetts, has signed an agreement with Siemens to be supply the 130 3.2MW offshore wind turbines for the project. Unlike the quick Japanese project development, and despite having the longstanding support of Massachusetts state government, Cape Wind has been caught up in bitter, often politically motivated legal fights for the past decade. With contracts now being awarded the project is expected to be completed and commissioned by 2016.

Given this progress in both Japan and the US, along with the very active European market, we expect a big story for 2014 will be the emergence of the global offshore wind industry – and with it the innovation, volume and scale necessary to continue to wind farm efficiencies and to drive down the overall installation costs.

Here’s to a great 2014!

Posted in Alternative Energy, Floating Offshore Wind, Offshore Wind, Uncategorized | Comments Off