This Week's Winners and Losers in the Battle for Offshore Wind

Offshore wind proponents have reason to celebrate this week.

Mar 24, 2014 at 9:47AM

Source: Walt Musial/ NREL.

Did the ocean breezes blow in favor of advocates or opponents of offshore wind this past week? Here are some of the most recent developments:

MEA Culpa
The Maryland Energy Association, or MEA, is guilty -- guilty of revealing its support for offshore wind projects. It announced a $700,000 initiative to help state businesses enter and compete in the global offshore wind market. The MEA will provide grant assistance in the amount of $25,000 for organizational needs and $500,000 for significant equipment investment.

The Market Entry Assistance Grant Program is the first initiative to originate from the Offshore Wind Business Development Fund. This announcement further demonstrates the state's interest in the opportunities offshore wind affords. But, it's not only the state's interest, it's the federal government as well. In December, the Department of the Interior announced its intent to auction 80,000 acres off the Maryland coast for commercial wind energy leasing.

One company that has a material interest in the auction is Exelon (NYSE:EXC)(NYSE:EXC)(NYSE:EXC)(NYSE:EXC)(NYSE:EXC)(NYSE:EXC). In 2011, having merged with Constellation Energy, Exelon pledged $30 million in offshore wind development off of the Maryland coast. This is only a portion of the 170 MW to 185 MW of renewable energy generation that the company has committed to develop in the state by 2022. Filing with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Dominion Resources (NYSE:D) is one bidder in the auction that has experience in this area -- Dominion won a lease last September for 112,799 acres off of Virginia's shores.

Up the coast
Auto dealers weren't the only ones in the Garden State looking to maintain the status quo in the world of renewable energy. Some miles farther north, in New Jersey, the momentum behind offshore wind died down this week. The state's Board of Public Utilities unanimously voted down a plan from Fishermen's Energy to build five wind turbines off of the Jersey shore.

The proposal was predicated on the expectation of receiving about $100 million in federal grants and tax breaks. Rejecting the proposal, the Board of Public Utilities argued that there was no guarantee that the project would receive the funds; consequently, the project did not provide a clear benefit to taxpayers.

Still farther up the coast
New England made news in two different instances when it came to offshore wind this past week. In Rhode Island, National Grid (NYSE:NGG) and Deepwater Wind reached an agreement regarding the construction of a transmission cable and substations for the 30MW wind farm to be located off Block Island. Pending approval from regulatory agencies, the utility is buying the wind farm's output at 24.4 cents/kWh under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

Also making news in the region, Cape Wind scored what most people consider a legal victory this past week; however, a very vocal minority had its own take on the matter. The issues at hand concern lawsuits brought by the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound -- challenges to a lease granted by the Department of the Interior.

Rejecting all the claims, U.S. District Court judge Reggie Walton ordered federal agencies to clarify findings regarding whales and birds. Although opponents deemed the judge's findings a victory for the environment, Cape Wind said that it, "expects these two compliance actions to be minor agency administrative actions that will not impact Cape Wind's financing schedule."

Besides the Deepwater Wind project in Rhode Island, National Grid also has an interest in the successful development of Cape Wind, which the utility has signed a power purchase agreement with for 50% of the generated power.

A Fool's conclusion...
In the saga over offshore wind, both advocates and opponents have had cause to celebrate over the past week. Although there was no knock-out punch delivered, it seems that this round goes to the advocates.

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