New York and New Jersey policymakers have established some of the nation’s most ambitious offshore wind targets. New Jersey plans to deploy 3,500 megawatts (MW) offshore wind capacity by 2030; New York is aiming for 9,000 MW installed by 2035.

With the targets in place, attention is now turning to the question of how best to deliver power from multiple projects comprising hundreds of megawatts each to the onshore grid.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced this week it would publish a “Request for Competitive Interest” for the development of transmission infrastructure off the coasts of New York and New Jersey.

The move by BOEM is in response to an unsolicited application from Anbaric Development Partners for the right to build an offshore transmission system up to 185 nautical miles long in the area. Anbaric is a Boston-based transmission developer backed by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan.

“We welcome this initiative from BOEM and look forward to our right-of-way application moving through this review process,” Anbaric CEO Edward Krapels told Greentech Media in an email. “We applaud BOEM for taking every step to ensure the long-term success of the offshore wind industry.”

If additional developers express interest in building transmission infrastructure in the same zone identified by Anbaric, BOEM could then move to open a competitive right-of-way grant issuance process.

Other proposals coming

Anbaric’s proposal entails the construction of an “OceanGrid” system facilitating the development of offshore wind projects along the Outer Continental Shelf in water stretching from Long Island, New York, south to Cape May, New Jersey.

Anbaric would build up to nine offshore collector platforms each connected via one or more subsea cables to the onshore grid. Platforms would be sited proximate to optimal wind energy areas identified by BOEM. Each platform would be capable of handling up to 1,200 MW from multiple offshore wind projects.

The concept shares some similarities with a proposal put forward earlier this decade by the Google-backed Atlantic Wind Connection, which has gone quiet in recent years.

According to Anthony Logan, senior analyst for North America wind power at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, BOEM should anticipate interest from other transmission developers.

“I expect other proposals from other players, absolutely,” he wrote in an email.

“BOEM has to check for competitive interest before awarding anything, and a transmission line right of way is no different. This may be frustrating for Anbaric who have been pitching this project for years,” Logan added.

Anbaric’s New York-New Jersey OceanGrid proposal highlights a quandary for policymakers and regulators in the region and beyond. Should project developers or third parties be responsible for building interconnections between offshore wind farms and the onshore power grid?

The lack of clarity on the grid issue is commonly cited by U.S. offshore wind developers as one of the most important questions facing the emerging industry. Different European countries have addressed the issue differently, with some, like Germany, putting the grid operator in charge of building offshore transmission infrastructure, and others largely leaving the task to private developers.

“Developers [in the U.S.] have been cool to third-party transmission thus far because they had absolutely no incentive to want to work with them the way previous procurements were written,” observed Logan.

He went on, “As the states become more sophisticated with experience in offshore, their procurement requirements will almost certainly require more collaboration and potential third-party transmission involvement.”

Logan said the way Massachusetts’ 83C offshore wind solicitation was written, “no developer was going to want to offer anything other than a lead line going straight from their project to the shore.”

“For one, the interconnection upgrade costs for a dozen-plus onshore facilities would be insane. Better to have a backbone to culminate in a few key offshore substations and well-developed onshore interconnection points than spreading yourself so thin.”

Logan added, “It doesn’t have to be a super-ambitious backbone, but each procuring state should be looking out to see that all or most of their awarded projects going forward are aligned in their offshore transmission framework."