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Anbaric pushes US offshore grid plans as market crystallises

EXCLUSIVE | US transmission developer Anbaric is pressing ahead with its proposal to build a large subsea grid in the northeastern US, putting it in conflict with offshore wind developers who would prefer to build their own transmission lines, Recharge has learned.

Privately owned Anbaric, which has built several of the only large high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission projects that exist today in the eastern US, first proposed an offshore grid south of Massachusetts earlier this decade – but the impetus for such a project has grown with the emergence of the US offshore wind market.

This week Anbaric submitted its recommendation to the state of Massachusetts that offshore transmission be built and owned separately from offshore wind generation, chief executive Edward Krapels tells Recharge.

Offshore wind developers “probably don’t want us to do this; they really see it as something they can do themselves”, Krapels says. “But if the scale of [the region’s] offshore wind ambitions are as big as we think they are, then it would be really foolish to let each wind developer do their own transmission.”

Ontario Teachers' backs US transmission developer Anbaric

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“What we’re proposing is a single project or a series of projects that solve the problem for the wind guys and bring their power onshore – in a better way, a more secure way, a more efficient and affordable way, rather than each wind guy having to come up with their own solution to what will be a very complex transmission challenge.”

“Society as a whole needs to think about what’s the best way to get this power to shore,” he says.

Anbaric’s proposal mirrors the approach to offshore transmission taken by Germany, which has built a number of HVDC links off its coasts to harness offshore wind capacity from various projects.

The proposal comes as northeastern US states begin to grapple with what increasingly looks to be a substantial build-out of offshore wind over the coming decade – straining the region’s infrastructure. A number of large offshore wind farms are expected to come online in New England waters in the early 2020s.

While the US has just 30MW of installed offshore wind capacity today, Massachusetts has directed its utilities to sign long-term off-take contracts for 1.6GW by 2027, while New York has signaled it will build 2.4GW by 2030. Tiny Rhode Island, meanwhile, is also expected to add more capacity.

Of New York’s 2.4GW target, Krapels says: “If you have six 400MW projects all trying to get to shore in the same place and at the same time, you’re going to have a mess.”

Over the past decade Massachusetts-based Anbaric built the Neptune and Hudson transmission projects, both bringing power into New York City via HVDC lines. It has a number of other high-profile transmission projects in development across New England – including the proposed Clean Energy Link, which would flow 700MW of Invenergy-built wind and solar power onto New York’s Long Island.

The Clean Energy Link is competing in a request for proposal this year on Long Island, and could be fully online by 2021, Krapels says.

Earlier this week Anbaric announced it had secured the financial backing of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan for its development-stage projects.

The partnership with Teachers’ is a “natural progression” for the US transmission market as wind and solar become mainstream sources of electricity generation, Krapels says. “We’re moving from more expensive capital to more efficient capital, with companies that will own and hold these projects for the long term.”

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