Rep. Cushing: Move to explore wind power is ‘win-win’

March 2, 2014 by  
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HAMPTON — A University of New Hampshire professor of ocean engineering sees a local effort to study offshore wind energy as a “smart move.”

House Bill 1312 was passed last week, which would create a study committee of House and Senate members to report back before the end of the year, and this week Seabrook’s selectmen supported a proposal of an underwater energy transmission cable to run from the New Hampshire Seacoast to the Boston area.

Professor Kenneth Baldwin, a doctor of ocean engineering, said it’s possible that underwater infrastructure like that could make it easier for a future farm of wind turbines at sea to get the energy they generate to shore.

“There’s a lot of things happening at once here and it can look a little chaotic out there, but eventually something is going to happen. And it’s going to be good,” he said in a phone interview Friday.

Baldwin testified on behalf of the bill, saying the state should have a working knowledge of its offshore energy possibilities.

He said he was appointed to a commission to study tidal energy at the General Sullivan Bridge in 2007 that resulted in all the companies involved, who at one point thought they could power the city of Portsmouth, withdrawing their proposals.

“They realized what the limitations were,” he said. “People didn’t understand the rudimentary physics.”

That’s why it’s important to get information together in a coherent fashion about the possibility of offshore wind energy and other ocean-based wind possibilities, especially as Maine and Massachusetts are further along in the process, Baldwin said.

“Both of those states are moving on this,” he said, “so we ought to be prepared.”

State Rep. Renny Cushing, a Hampton Democrat who sponsored the bill, said though New Hampshire has a small coastline, there’s potential to work with bordering states.

“I hope the committee would take a look not just at New Hampshire but also look at some programs that involve collaborations between the federal government and Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire,” he said.

Cushing said ocean energy programs could also boost manufacturing on the Seacoast. He said, for instance, Portsmouth-based Simplex Technologies Inc. makes underwater cables.

“There’s manufacturing here on the Seacoast. We have docks and we have infrastructure in place that could support offshore development,” he said.

Cushing noted that there’s a national program that seeks to partner underutilized defense installations with private sector uses that could “create a win-win situation for both our national defense and our civilian economy.”

And transmission lines already exist in Seabrook and Portsmouth that are on the grid, Cushing said.

“We have two existing possible plugs, if you will, places where offshore energy can be fed into the grid,” he said.

Cushing said he doesn’t anticipate there being any problems with the bill passing the Senate.

He said he hopes it will bring together the experts from UNH, the fishing industry, electrical workers, utilities, the Division of Resources and Economic Development, the Port Authority and others to consider ocean energy possibilities for the future.

Doug Bogen, executive director of the Seacoast Anti-Pollution League, also testified on behalf of the bill. He said wind offshore is stronger and more consistent than on land, as well as closer to population centers, and that the U.S. Department of Energy has calculated that more than 200,000 megawatts of power can be generated in the Gulf of Maine, or more than six times the power used in all of New England.

Bogen said Maine has set a goal to produce 5,000 megawatts of power from offshore wind turbines by 2030.

“Combined with other renewable power sources, this is more than enough to power the whole state,” he said.


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