Offshore wind developments in the Gulf of Maine could have a big impact on the state and all of New England if they’re built, a new report from New Hampshire’s Department of Energy shows.
The industry is still in a nascent stage, but growing as the federal government moves toward a goal of developing 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.
In the area being considered for wind projects, normal wind conditions could produce enough power to fully meet the needs of New England states for almost 40% of the year. That jumps to more than 70% of the year, if large capacity energy storage is included, according to the report.
The study, put together by a Bedford-based company, lays out what impacts the offshore wind industry could have on New Hampshire’s economic opportunities, environment, and energy needs. Three state agencies released a similar, though much shorter, report in early 2022.
This year’s report says New Hampshire could see economic benefits from this industry, particularly from the development of port facilities that could help with construction, operations, environmental oversight, and more for the wind turbines. Facilities like that could create more than 3,600 jobs in the state, the report says.
Commercial fishing businesses could suffer if some sites become unavailable for fishing during high winds or other conditions, according to the report. The losses for New Hampshire lobster fishers could total up to $3.3 million in annual profits, authors say. But in that scenario, wind farm developers would be expected to compensate fishermen for the impacts, following best practices laid out by the federal government.
The report says there are some threats to marine mammals and sea turtles from offshore wind operations, like noise and increased boat traffic. The structures could also affect birds and bats.
Offshore wind could be a major development in the clean energy transition, helping move New England’s grid away from its reliance on natural gas. The report says a de-carbonized grid would still need “a significant amount of emission-free dispatchable generation,” and says the most cost-effective approach would be hydroelectricity, possibly interfacing with Canadian hydropower.
Earlier this year, Gov. Chris Sununu announced his support for a project to connect the state with Canadian hydropower.
The report also touches on environmental justice, saying the benefits to communities that have historically been impacted negatively by energy infrastructure must be tracked over the life of offshore wind projects. It says people have expressed concerns that lower-income communities, rural coastal communities, smaller fisheries, and Native American tribal communities would not be involved.
The report does not appear to make any recommendations on New Hampshire’s involvement in the offshore wind industry, but provides pros and cons for various possible locations for turbines within an area specified by the federal government.