THE HEALEY ADMINISTRATION announced on Monday that it has filed an application for $250 million in federal matching funds to help build connections to the power grid in Massachusetts for offshore wind and solar power developers.
State officials portrayed the grant proposal as an attempt to “jumpstart state and regional collaboration on necessary transmission infrastructure,” but the application focused exclusively on work in Massachusetts.
The state, in partnership with Eversource and National Grid, is seeking to upgrade interconnection points at Brayton Point, the site of a former coal-fired power plant in Somerset, and at other unspecified locations on the South Coast. The $1 billion project would enable interconnections to the grid for a total of 3,600 megawatts of electricity.
The current process for interconnecting offshore wind is a bit of a free-for-all, with each offshore wind developer required to build its own transmission line connecting their project to the grid. The approach has resulted in a hodgepodge of transmission technologies and a rush on interconnections on Cape Cod, which is close to the wind farm area but with limited access to areas where energy demand is highest.
A concept paper developed earlier this year by the New England states of Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island proposed a collaboration between states and the federal government to develop a power grid of sorts at sea near the wind farm lease areas and then build standardized transmission lines to where the power is most needed. The approach would move transmission construction away from populated areas, standardize technology, and spread the cost across several states.
“Offshore wind is highly valuable in meeting the region’s winter peaking needs and displacing fossil generation,” the concept paper said. “However, integrating the large amounts of offshore wind needed to accomplish these decarbonization goals in a cost-effective manner will be nearly impossible without something akin to this proposal.”
The grant application announced on Monday takes initial steps in this direction, focusing mostly on interconnection points in southeastern Massachusetts. The approach should reduce costs for wind farm and solar developers but ratepayers will still be on the hook for transmission-related costs incurred by their utilities.