Advocates say N.H. is blowing its chance at offshore wind

  • FILE - In this Aug. 15, 2016 file photo, three wind turbines from the Deepwater Wind project stand off Block Island, R.I. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Monday, April 22, 2019, that Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind, that acquired Deepwarter Wind in 2018, and Eversource have pledged 4.5 million for wind power education, research and industry expansion in the state. Orsted is acquiring permits to build up to 50 turbines in federal waters south of Martha's Vineyard. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File) Michael Dwyer

Monitor staff
Published: 2/16/2022 6:27:34 PM
Modified: 2/16/2022 6:25:40 PM

New Hampshire is uniquely positioned to benefit from one of the most promising areas for offshore wind development. Environmental advocates fear the state is blowing its advantage.

The Gulf of Maine — an area with strong and reliably blowing winds — is what Sen. David Watters called the “Saudi Arabia of wind.” The area presents an opportunity to create thousands of jobs and move away from fossil fuels, supporters said at a press conference Wednesday morning organized by New England for Offshore Wind.

“Offshore wind really is the biggest lever we have to move climate change action,” said Rob Werner, state director for the League of Conservation Voters.

They say the current administration isn’t doing enough to take advantage of the opportunity.

Gov. Chris Sununu has been a cautious proponent of offshore wind investment, primarily calling for more research into the new industry. He requested the creation of a Gulf of Maine Task Force via the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. But Watters said that group has only met once back in 2019.

Sununu also signed an executive order that called on state agencies to issue a thorough report on the potential offshore wind industry in New Hampshire. The report, which outlined a path forward for wind infrastructure and highlighted some potential challenges, was released to the public last week.

Sununu has urged caution to ensure that commercial fishing and recreational ocean industries are not negatively impacted by the investment.

“We must be respectful of the existing industries and recreational activities that rely on access to the Gulf of Maine so they can continue to thrive and grow with as minimum an impact as possible from the deployment of offshore wind,” Sununu wrote.

Advocates say it’s time for more significant action. New England for Offshore Winds delivered a petition to Sununu’s office Wednesday morning that asked him to use executive power to direct New Hampshire public utilities to procure 800 megawatts of offshore wind, enough energy to power 400,000 homes. The order would serve as a market signal that New Hampshire is ready to aggressively invest in the renewable resource, Werner said.

Mark Sanborn, the assistant commissioner for the N.H. Department of Environmental Services called the proposition irresponsible, emphasizing that assessing offshore wind is an important first step for this venture.

“The suggestion that the governor should circumvent the legislative process to pursue such a policy would be irresponsible, expensive, and premature,” Sanborn said in a statement. “The Governor’s office and state agencies have engaged with regional, national, and global partners to work towards responsible offshore wind development.”

Many northeastern states have already heavily invested in offshore wind. Last year, New Jersey awarded funding to two offshore wind projects that would power 1.5 million homes together. In January, New York announced $500 million investment in offshore wind off its coast.

“We feel that unless the efforts right now...are built upon in a more assertive way, that in fact we will be left behind,” Werner said.

Watters said New Hampshire needs to invest swiftly to show investors in offshore wind that the state is open for business. Two offshore wind bills, both sponsored by Watters, have been introduced this legislative session. SB 268 would give New Hampshire some say over ocean area hundreds of miles off its shores and SB 440 would develop criteria for weighing purchase agreements for offshore wind.

“If we move forward together, the future is bright,” Watters said. “And windy.”

Teddy Rosenbluth bio photo

Teddy Rosenbluth is a Report for America corps member covering health care issues for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. She has covered science and health care for Los Angeles Magazine, the Santa Monica Daily Press and UCLA's Daily Bruin, where she was a health editor and later magazine director. Her investigative reporting has brought her everywhere from the streets of Los Angeles to the hospitals of New Delhi. Her work garnered first place for Best Enterprise News Story from the California Journalism Awards, and she was a national finalist for the Society of Professional Journalists Best Magazine Article. She graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology.

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