There’s no shortage of ideas for modernizing the electric grid, particularly as to how New Jersey should ensure that its growing reliance on renewable energy is seamlessly integrated into its century-old power network.
Among the toughest unanswered issues involves how to bring power from yet-to-be built offshore wind farms to the public, a problem the New JerseyBoard of Public Utilities hopes to begin addressing next month.
Until then, the agency is sifting through 80 proposals offered by 13 developers vying to pursue such options as transmission lines to harden the power grid without harming its reliability as the state aims to transition from fossil fuels to cleaner ways of generating electricity.
Besides offshore transmission components, the developers also have proposed upgrading the onshore network, extending the power grid closer to the shore and bringing offshore generation across coastal areas.
A subsidiary of NextEra Transmission has submitted 19 proposals to the BPU, including eight different options on transmission lines from offshore wind farms. One option would have the capability of delivering up to 11,700 megawatts of power from offshore wind farms to the grid, which aligns with a revised goal established by Gov. Phil Murphy in a recent executive order.
The BPU asked bidders to offer ways to meet the state’s goals of achieving 7,500 MW of offshore wind generation by 2035. Last week, Murphy raised the offshore-wind target in New Jersey to 11,000 MW by 2040.
The options offered by NextEra Transmission MidAtlantic, the subsidiary, range in cost from about $2 billion to $10 billion, according to Matt Valle, president of the parent company.
Minimizing environmental impacts
Its proposal to build an offshore wind transmission system capable of delivering up to 11,700 MW to the grid would involve three shore landings. The BPU has said that one of its biggest concerns is minimizing potential adverse environmental impacts in bringing the power onshore.
Earlier this month, NextEra announced it reached a memorandum of understanding with a subsidiary of Elia Group to develop and build offshore wind transmission infrastructure for New Jersey. Elia, a European company, has connected 13 offshore wind farms to onshore grids in the North and Baltic seas.
‘This is not a distribution line down the street.’ — Matt Valle, NextEra Transmission
“Elia has been doing this for some 20 years,’’ Valle said. In a world that is generally supply-constrained, there are benefits in allying with a company that has a history of dealing with vendors to obtain the equipment and supplies needed to finish these projects on time and within cost projections, Valle said.
NextEra has a lot of experience in competitive bidding processes to build transmission lines, Valle said. It has won 40% of all North America competitive solicitations, investing $5 billion in such projects, according to the company, owning 75% of all submarine high-voltage cable systems in the U.S.
New Jersey’s current solicitation may be the most competitive proceeding held to date, Valle said, given that it is looking to build the network of connections out in the ocean before other states.
Valle said it is imperative for the state to pick the best team with the experience to get such a complex and large project done and on time.
“This is not a distribution line down the street,’’ Valle said.
NextEra also contends its cost containment proposals are the best for ratepayers because they include all potential costs, including potential needed upgrades to the power grid onshore.
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