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What if an offshore wind farm was up and running last winter?

By District Energy posted 01-03-2019 00:00


Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth


Last year at this time, New England was gripped by a blast of unusually cold weather that went on for 16 days. The prolonged low temperatures increased demand for natural gas for both heating and electricity, which with the region’s pipeline constraints led to sharply higher wholesale electricity prices and forced power generators to burn more oil in the brief period than they had in the previous two years combined.

Now the operator of the region’s power grid, at the request of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, has engaged in a bit of “what if” analysis. What if a wind farm had been operating off the coast last winter?

The analysis indicates a working wind farm last winter would have reduced the region’s carbon dioxide emissions and wholesale electricity prices, but not enough to eliminate the impact of the region’s pipeline constraints. The analysis also shows that a wind farm’s energy production is highly variable, going up and down fairly dramatically over the course of a day.

Stephen Pike, the CEO of the Clean Energy Center, said in a statement that he was encouraged by the analysis, which showed that offshore wind would provide “a significant source of clean energy to the grid that would help shave peak demand, save ratepayers millions of dollars, and reduce the region’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

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