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US North-eastern Grid Will Need Updating to Accommodate Offshore Wind

image credit: Block Island Wind Farm courtesy Deepwater Wind
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Industry experts told the US Offshore Wind Virtual conference last month that transmission work will be required soon to ensure that the burgeoning US offshore wind industry does not hit bottlenecks. States like New Jersey, New York, Virginia and Massachusetts are planning large offshore renewable arrays.

Planned US offshore wind farms; graphic from BOEM

However grid provision both offshore and onshore means there are remote or limited landing points, so improvements need to be planned, permitted and installed quite soon, according to Suzanne Glatz, Director, Infrastructure Planning, PJM Interconnection. The company is a is a regional transmission organization (RTO) that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia.

"That's going to be a key challenge to get the full build out of the offshore wind that we see being both driven by the policy and what is coming into our queue," she says.

The PJM transmission network spans 81,000 miles in the US North-east and includes Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia, three states with significant offshore wind goals.

The PJM grid currently utilizes around 10 GW of installed wind capacity and this could increase more than four times by 2030, based on proposed onshore and offshore projects. Overall about 20 GW of offshore wind projects are in development, mostly off the Eastern Seaboard, although there are a small number of projects looking to the seas off California and Hawaii.

Offshore the projects will need substations, undersea cables and monitoring equipment. Onshore they will also need substations and upgrading of the coastal grid. Often the best wind sites are near sparsely-populated areas which have insufficient infrastructure to support the power input from large arrays.

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