Offshore wind may help New Hampshire lower energy costs

New Hampshire may have the smallest ocean coastline of any US state – 18.5 miles (29.7km) – but some officials see offshore wind as a promising energy resource that could help reduce the high cost of electricity there next decade.

A 2014 study by the state legislature suggested that New Hampshire may have as much as 3.4GW of capacity within 50 miles of its mainland, which would cover most of the state’s electric power requirements.

The steep decline of the continental shelf close to shore – unlike other northeastern states except Maine – would require floating wind, whose economics continue to improve but are not yet cost-competitive with fixed foundations.

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New Hampshire has some of the highest electricity rates in the nation – an average 16.04 cents kW/h in March versus 10.34 kW/h nationwide, a figure inflated by inclusion of Alaska and Hawaii that are not part of the continental US and have special logistical and other circumstances that raise the cost of energy.

New Hampshire relies heavily on the 27-year-old Seabrook nuclear reactor, which provides almost 50% of electric power generation and is the largest individual electrical generating unit on the New England grid. It is owned by NextEra Energy.

It also is dependent on biomass, mainly wood and wood byproducts, and imports natural gas, coal and fuel oil for most other power generation.

The state ranks 42nd in population with about 1.32 million people but its economy is 39th and larger than neighboring Maine and nearby Rhode Island, site of America's first offshore wind farm.

Offshore wind supporters in the state are calling on Governor Chris Sununu, a rare Republican in heavily Democratic New England, to ask the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to form a task force dedicated to exploring commercial energy development in the Gulf of Maine.

New Hampshire, Connecticut, Florida and Georgia are the only states along the Atlantic seaboard without an offshore wind task force.

Sector advocates such as councilors in the Town of Durham - home to the University of New Hampshire - are also urging Sununu to consider the environmental and job creation benefits that offshore wind could provide New Hampshire, whether it aims for homegrown generation or participates in regional development schemes and acquires cleaner electric power.