Nuclear Industry Still A Power Player, But Solar And Offshore Wind Energy Grow | Connecticut Public Radio
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Nuclear Industry Still A Power Player, But Solar And Offshore Wind Energy Grow

Dec 28, 2018

Connecticut’s only nuclear plant has won a bid to provide customers with electricity over the next decade. The award comes at a time when offshore wind and solar energy continue to grow.

When it comes to selling power, resources like solar and wind have certain advantages. That’s thanks to one simple thing: they don’t emit carbon. Because of that, the state has carved out a market where they can sell their clean energy, allowing clean power to compete with much more abundant resources like natural gas.

But for years, Waterford-based Millstone was locked out of that clean energy market.

Environmentalists were concerned if Millstone, a massive legacy generator, could bid in -- it would block the development of newer energy tech.

But in 2017, after months of threatening a possible future plant closure, Millstone won the right to bid alongside resources like solar and wind. At the time, there were calls for the company to be more financially transparent.

Fast forward to today, and it looks like Millstone’s won again.

On Friday, the state picked Millstone for a decade-long nuclear power contract.

In an e-mailed statement, Rob Klee, outgoing commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said part of the reason is that Millstone is at risk of early retirement.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2017, 48% of Connecticut’s net electricity generation came from Millstone.

"We remain committed to keeping this valuable zero-carbon resource, provided that it is affordable, as we work towards long-term replacement through smart investments in offshore wind and solar paired with grid-scale storage.”

“At the same time, we believe ratepayers deserve, and can get, a more competitive price for Millstone’s output,” Klee said.

Under the agreement, the state has directed Connecticut’s electric utilities, Eversource and United Illuminating (UI), to negotiate Millstone’s price down beginning in 2022, saying Dominion has not yet sought a rate of return in the best interest of ratepayers.

As part of Friday’s power-bid selection, Connecticut also chose nine solar projects, including three in Connecticut: Montville Energy Center, Black Hill Point Energy Center, and Gravel Pit Solar.

Meanwhile, offshore wind continues to grow.

In June, Connecticut selected “Revolution Wind” as the state’s first-ever winner for offshore wind.

That winning bid, from Ørsted US Offshore Wind, formerly Deepwater Wind, set aside 200 megawatts of power that will be generated from an offshore wind farm located in federal waters about halfway between Montauk, New York and Martha’s Vineyard.

On Friday, the state announced a 100 megawatt expansion to that project, which Ørsted said will provide power for roughly 50,000 homes.

Construction is slated to begin in 2022 with operations commencing the following year.

But Connecticut still lags behind its New England neighbors Rhode Island and Massachusetts in bringing in offshore wind power. Both have recently made larger offshore wind procurements, with Rhode Island recently procuring 400 megawatts from the same Revolution Wind project.

Massachusetts has committed to 1600 megawatts of offshore wind and has contracts for 800 megawatts of that amount.

“This announcement is good news for our workers and their communities, as it expands the new offshore wind industry's footprint in Connecticut and demonstrates the state's interest in securing a share of the highly-paid offshore wind jobs coming to the Northeast,” said John Humphries, lead organizer for the CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs, in an e-mailed statement. "However, this is a very timid step in comparison to other states in the region.”