Offshore wind is the renewable-energy industry’s shiny new toy. Led by New York, seven Atlantic-coast states have now imposed mandates to expand offshore wind use over the next decade, with the Empire State last week soliciting bids for an additional 2,500 megawatts of offshore power, on top of the 1,700 megawatts procured previously.
Advocates claim offshore wind will contribute to a low-carbon future, spur an economic renaissance and create thousands of jobs. Don’t buy it. The mandates are yet another boondoggle that will benefit a well-connected few, saddling everyone else with even higher power costs.
Consider Rhode Island’s 30-megawatt, six-turbine offshore wind project located off Block Island and operated by Deepwater Wind. A decade ago, Rhode Island’s public utility commission rejected the project, concluding that the sky-high prices it would charge the local electric utility would adversely affect consumers. Yet the Rhode Island legislature ignored consumer interests and forced the commission to approve a 20-year contract.
At the start, in 2016, the local utility paid $245 per megawatt-hour for the project’s electricity, with a guaranteed increase of 3.5 percent each year. In 2035, the last year of the contract, the price will be an eye-popping $470 per MWh. By contrast, the average price of wholesale electricity in New England last year was about $31/MWh. In New York, average prices ranged between $22 per MWh upstate to $51 per MWh in Gotham.
Elsewhere, the dozen offshore projects now under development have lower-priced contracts, but they are still far higher than market prices. In New York, the first-year prices for the 816 MW Empire Wind and 880 MW Sunrise Wind projects will be $99/MWh and $110/MWh, respectively. And that’s cheap compared to electricity from some other wind projects in the Atlantic, which range from $77.76/MWh to $202/MWh.
Jonathan A. Lesser, PhD, is the president of Continental Economics, an economic consulting firm, and an adjunct fellow with the Manhattan Institute.
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