Stanford offshore wind analysis relies on transmission “ideal”

A recently published research study for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University identifies offshore wind energy (OWE) resources capable of meeting one-third of U.S. demand.

That capability, however, is dependent on an “ideal” transmission backbone.

Scientists for the department’s Atmosphere/Energy Program performed a quantitative analysis of East Coast OWE potential, drawing conclusions for the most suitable locations for large-scale development of OWE based on wind resource, shallow bathymetry, hurricane risk, and peak-power generation potential.

In the analysis, the researchers identify an ideal transmission scenario that would connect offshore wind resources with the terrestrial grid.

The analysis refers to the proposed Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) transmission project as a current example of that ideal connectivity option.

AWC is an East Coast offshore backbone electric transmission system proposed by Trans-Elect that would integrate up to 7,000 MW of offshore wind turbine capacity into the regional power grid for PJM Interconnection.

The proposal currently is moving through the permitting process and received a finding of “no competitive interest” in May from the Department of the Interior for use of certain areas of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.

“This is a PJM-specific project right now,” a spokesperson for AWC told TransmissionHub Sept. 20. “It stops at northern New Jersey, so it wouldn’t tie into Rhode Island, currently wouldn’t tie into New York, and it wouldn’t tie into Cape Wind at all.”

While the AWC proposal makes no recommendations for where the line would connect to the terrestrial grid, AWC’s spokesperson said the company has studied the interconnection options.In order to understand where AWC or any similar proposal would connect along the coastline, projects need to be included in regional transmission plans, the spokesperson added.

PJM, however, has no specific proposal in place to warrant that step.

“Our existing process for interconnection of generation is that transmission needs are built to connect generation when there is a proposed generator,” a spokesperson for PJM told TransmissionHub Sept 20. “PJM wouldn’t plan or build for something that hasn’t yet been specifically proposed.”

PJM has moved ahead with studies of the potential response in the bulk power system to new offshore wind resource proposals.

“We are looking at what it would take to meet renewable portfolio standards in several states,” PJM’s spokesperson said. “We’re looking at various scenarios for varying amounts of offshore wind that could be built to understand what upgrades would be necessary and what the associated costs would be.”

Michael Dvorak and Mark Jacobson, two of the authors for the Stanford OWE study, co-authored a separate research study released in March that examines the best location for an East Coast offshore transmission grid.

The study, which also cites AWC as a current offshore example, outlines an ideal OWE grid that interconnects several offshore wind farms versus connecting each wind farm individually in order to achieve operating efficiencies.