The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) has taken a historic step to align offshore wind transmission goals in the state with a regional grid operator’s planning process
Doing so will allow for a co-ordinated approach to transmission of offshore wind energy, rather than using point-to-point transmission systems of the type proposed by developers to date.
The NJBPU requested the inclusion of the new policy in the transmission planning process of PJM Interconnection through a competitive solicitation process in what is known as a ‘state agreement approach.’
NJBPU president Joseph Fiordaliso said of the decision, “Our action today reflects New Jersey’s leadership in innovative clean energy development, as well as our commitment to expanding renewable energy quickly and responsibly to combat climate change.
“By exploring offshore wind transmission options through the state agreement approach, we will work collaboratively with PJM to identify potential solutions that meet the state’s needs and ensure the best value for ratepayers. PJM has been tremendously helpful throughout this process and will be instrumental to our success in achieving Governor Murphy’s vision for 100% clean energy by 2050.”
PJM president and chief executive Manu Asthana said, “The state agreement approach was written broadly to accommodate the breadth and diversity of policies that different states might pursue. It is a tool that states can use to leverage PJM’s regional transmission planning expertise. In this case, we are pleased to be able to help New Jersey advance its offshore wind objectives.”
NJBPU is requesting that PJM integrate the state’s offshore wind transmission goals into its transmission planning process. Its action authorises PJM to solicit potential offshore wind transmission solutions from qualified developers on behalf of NJBPU, making New Jersey the first state to engage in a competitive solicitation process.
By making this formal request, NJBPU can utilise the state agreement approach to explore options for an optimal long-term solution for offshore wind transmission that otherwise may not have been available at this stage of development. Through the solicitation process, NJBPU will examine a range of ready-to-build transmission options, their potential cost, siting and environmental impacts and the timeframe for construction.
The process will also allow NJBPU to determine how a co-ordinated approach can lead to more cost-effective, efficient transmission solutions that minimise the environmental impact of bringing wind energy ashore.
NJBPU directed staff to work with PJM to seek potential solutions for three interrelated components of an open access offshore wind transmission facility: onshore upgrades; beach crossings with potential offshore ‘collector’ platforms, which collect energy from multiple windfarms; and a transmission ‘backbone’ to connect multiple collector platforms or lease areas.
NJBPU will assess whether proposals for any of these components can meet the state’s offshore wind policy goals in an economically efficient, environmentally sensitive and timely manner. It intends to work with PJM to open the solicitation in 2021 and evaluate competitive project proposals in concert with the grid operator, including any cost considerations.
At the end of the process, NJBPU will decide whether to proceed with any combination of the proposed transmission projects but reserves the right to terminate the process at any time without making a selection.
Responding to the announcement, Anbaric Development Partners president Mid-Atlantic Janice Fuller said, “We applaud President Fiordaliso and the BPU for their historic decision to further New Jersey as the clear national leader in offshore wind development.”
Anbaric has long advocated for the kind of independent, co-ordinated approach to transmission that the NJBPU’s decision makes possible.
“As the principal industry advocate for a planned, independent transmission system that protects ratepayers and grows the industry, Anbaric is thrilled to see the BPU take this enormous step forward,” Ms Fuller said.
“With today’s decision, BPU has made clear that in order to reach that 7.5 GW of offshore wind goal by 2035, the state must prioritise a planned transmission system that can scale the industry in an economic and environmentally sound way.
“This action represents another significant step toward planned transmission. Earlier this year, Anbaric was proud to have helped pass landmark legislation that expanded the definition of a ‘qualified offshore wind project’ to include an ‘open access offshore wind transmission facility.’
“We have also seen planned transmission touted as ‘important to reach the state’s long-term offshore wind goals’ in the state’s Energy Master Plan.
“The increasing recognition of the need for planned transmission, both for the economic and environmental benefits it provides, is clear. We are thrilled to see the state moving in this direction, which will help scale the offshore wind industry, reduce consumer costs, and mitigate environmental impacts.
“With this announcement, the industry is positioned to finally see the realisation of a significant enabling expansion of the power grid with a solicitation in 2021. We look forward to the opportunity to compete in a transmission planning solicitation process in the coming year.”