A Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Technical Conference Tuesday explored whether and how existing regional transmission organizations and independent system operators can accommodate anticipated growth in offshore wind generation.
The Oct. 27 technical conference examined a number of options that may be used to integrate offshore wind, including a “transmission first” approach. That approach would entail building out the transmission grid without waiting for firm commitments from offshore generating resources. Panelists also discussed interregional approaches to developing an offshore wind “backbone.”
Some speakers urged that whatever model is adopted should not adversely impact generation in the interconnection queue, which depends on the timely system study results arising from their respective position in the queue. Virtually all speakers acknowledged the increased complexities associated with integrating offshore wind while accommodating differing state timetables in multi-state regional transmission organizations (RTOs).
“It is no secret that our energy mix is changing, and changing rapidly,” FERC Commissioner Neil Chatterjee said.
Chatterjee said that the Commission was seeking constructive conversation about how to develop offshore wind transmission projects with input on: 1) how they should be modeled by RTOs and ISOs; and 2) alterative models for building transmission to accommodate anticipated growth.
“There are multiple factors driving investment in the U.S. offshore wind industry, and they show no signs of slowing down,” he said.
Within PJM’s footprint, which includes 13 states and the District of Columbia, coastal states have offshore wind targets totaling more than 14,250 MW in new generation. There are more than two dozen offshore wind projects totaling more than 13,500 MW in PJM’s current interconnection queue.
PJM remains committed to partnering with states and stakeholders to pursue efficient ways to interconnect offshore wind generation and enhance the onshore grid, said Kenneth S. Seiler, PJM Vice President – Planning.
Among a diverse representation of wind developers, regional grid professionals, industry experts and regulators, discussion focused on the opportunities of “transmission first” planning. FERC was urged in some cases to lead with a policy statement and regulatory reform to promote centralized planning for transmission improvements for the most efficient onshore and offshore “mesh” grid possible.
Others urged that time will be saved by speeding the development of offshore wind projects now connecting via single radial lines to shore points, with new infrastructure still capable of future and more efficient interconnections.
Representing PJM at the daylong technical conference, Seiler’s testimony addressed issues relating to the interconnection of offshore wind via generator and merchant transmission interconnection processes.
PJM has seen some early successes with offshore wind integration, he added, including in Virginia for the Dominion territory and a second 250 MW project with an executed interconnection service agreement for facilities off the coast of Delaware.
Still another existing option is the state agreement approach, he said. The state agreement approach, as set forth in Schedule 6 of the PJM Operating Agreement, allows a state or states to come forth with state-initiated offshore wind projects that could potentially realize state public policy requirements, he said.
“Those states can then decide if they want to build out and pay for transmission requirements to support that public policy,” Seiler said. “That is one of the tools in our toolbox.”
Seiler also noted that a standard federal public policy requirement “could become a very clear driver we could then integrate into the Regional Transmission Expansion Plan.” “Although offshore interconnection may pose some challenges,” he added, “PJM is working to address those challenges in collaboration with states and stakeholders.”