U.S. waters off the Atlantic coast are shaping up as a bonanza for offshore wind power, with the federal government having approved 15 tracks of water for development and investment flowing in from overseas. But some say projects may be facing a crosswind as the U.S. government takes a closer look at their impact.
In this edition of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Bill Loveless talks with Jeff Grybowski, until recently the co-CEO of Ørsted U.S. Offshore Wind and previously the CEO of Deepwater Wind, the Rhode Island-based company that completed the first offshore wind farm in the U.S., a five-turbine project off Block Island in 2016. Jeff joined Ørsted when the Danish company, a global leader in offshore wind energy, bought Deepwater Wind last year.
Jeff shepherded the Block Island project to completion, drawing on his experience not only in business and law but also as a former state policymaker in Rhode Island. Alex Kuffner, a reporter for the Providence Journal, wrote that Jeff, “by proving that an offshore wind farm could be built in the United States, is arguably more responsible than anyone for ushering in the current rush of development.”
Likewise, Thomas Brostrom, the CEO of Ørsted U.S. Offshore Wind, told the Journal that Jeff is “one of the pioneers of the offshore wind industry in the U.S.”
Bill and Jeff last met two years ago, when the Block Island turbines had been spinning energy for less than a year. Here, they get together again at Jeff's North Kingston, R.I., home to catch up on this emerging industry, the proliferation of projects and the outlook its expansion in the U.S.
They also discuss a controversial decision by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to take more time to examine the impact of a project called Vineyard Wind, an 84-turbine project planned by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables that would be the first large-scale wind farm in the U.S. That government inquiry has implications not only for Vineyard Wind but also projects planned by Ørsted and other developers off the Atlantic coast.
They touch, too, on the significance of state policies for offshore wind energy as well as federal policies, like a soon-to-expire investment tax credit.
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Bill Loveless: U.S. waters off the Atlantic coast are shaping up as a bonanza for offshore wind power, with the federal government having approved 15 tracks of water for development and investment flowing in from overseas. But some say projects may be facing a crosswind as the U.S. government takes a closer look at their impact. Hello and welcome to Columbia Energy Exchange. A weekly podcast from the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. From Washington, I’m Bill Loveless. Our guest today is Jeff Grybowski, until recently the co-CEO of Ørsted U.S. Offshore Wind and previously the CEO of Deepwater Wind, the Rhode Island-based company that completed the first offshore wind farm in the U.S., a five-turbine project off Block Island in 2016. Jeff joined Ørsted when the Danish company, a global leader in offshore wind energy, bought Deepwater Wind last year. Jeff shepherded the Block Island project to completion, drawing on his experience not only in business and law but also as a former state policymaker in Rhode Island. Alex Kuffner, a reporter for the Providence Journal, wrote that Jeff, “by proving that an offshore wind farm could be built in the United States, is arguably more responsible than anyone for ushering in the current rush of development.” I sat down with Jeff at his home in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, to talk about this emerging industry and the outlook for its expansion in the U.S. Among other things, we discussed a decision by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to take more time to examine the impact of a project called Vineyard Wind, an 84-turbine project planned by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables that would be the first large-scale wind farm in the U.S. The government inquiry has implications not only for Vineyard Wind but also projects planned by Orsted and other developers off the Atlantic coast. We also touched on the significance of state policies for offshore wind energy as well as federal policies like a soon to expire investment tax credit. Well, here is our conversation. I hope you enjoy it. Jeff Grybowski, welcome back to the Columbia Energy Exchange.
Jeff Grybowski: Thank you Bill. Great to be here. It’s good to see you again.
Bill Loveless: It’s been a couple of years.
Jeff Grybowski: Yeah.
Bill Loveless: We last spoke about two years ago. At that time the Block Island Wind Farm had been operating for less than a year, the turbines off the coast of Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island. A lot has happened since then.
Jeff Grybowski: A lots happened since we put the first turbine in the water off the U.S. That’s for sure. The industry has released, start to take off here in America.
Bill Loveless: Right, right. As we have said, so the pioneer in getting the starter. This was the first farm and now there is a lot more plan in these waters off New England, New York, New Jersey. The company you just left, Orsted, has a big hand in that as do other companies. Give us a lay of the land, Jeff in terms of what is going on right now. The projects taking place.
Jeff Grybowski: Sure. Yeah. I can pretty quickly summarize offshore wind for you. You know, the European started building offshore wind in early 90s and between the early 90s up till today, they built a pretty big industry with about 20 gigawatts, maybe about 23 gigawatts actually installed globally today. The U.S. has a different story. In the early 2000s, there were a couple of projects that tried to move forward, the most notable one is the Cape Wind Project off Nantucket Sound.
Bill Loveless: The one that collapsed. Much controversy. Worried about the appearance of those.
Jeff Grybowski: We had about 15 years of efforts in the United States from the early 2000s of several projects including cape wind that tried to proceed and they all failed. And then in 2016, the block island wind farm actually went operational. That was the first offshore wind farm built in the United States. 30 megawatts, five big GE turbines sitting through miles off the coast of block island which is really just between Montauk and Long Island and Martha's Vineyard.
Bill Loveless: Right. Small project in a small state but big in many other ways in terms of its significance.
Jeff Grybowski: Hugely important because there have been so many project failures and you know, people globally in the world thought well, United States just can’t get past all the challenges that it takes to build an offshore wind farm. Permitting stakeholders, financial, just lots of complicated challenges working offshore. And we have never done it before in the U.S. and lo and behold Block Island went operational. And since the end of 2016, when that project first started producing power, we’ve seen this incredible explosion of interest in state and federal and private support for building lots of new offshore wind farms in the United States.
Bill Loveless: Right. There has been, I mean, you know, again the new developments will be in federal waters as opposed to state waters as was the case with the Deepwater Wind project off Block Island. As I understand that the bureau of ocean energy management, that’s the U.S. Entity that regulates these things has auctioned some 15 parcels along the Atlantic coast or offshore wind energy.
Jeff Grybowski: Yeah, and these parcels are really large areas of, you know, several hundred square miles each. So, you have these enormous areas. Each of them can accommodate several gigawatts of offshore wind capacity. So, collectively, I think the latest estimate is that if all the states that have declared their offshore wind intentions, mostly on the East Coast right now, are successful in building out their current projected pipeline. That’s about 20 gigawatts, 20,000 megawatts of offshore wind capacity over the next decade or so. A big change.
Bill Loveless: Yeah.
Jeff Grybowski: And that’s equal to as must as there is globally in offshore wind today.
Bill Loveless: Right.
Jeff Grybowski: 20 gigawatts is nothing to laugh at. It’s a lot of power.
Bill Loveless: Yeah. Yeah, I’ve read in the past where the wind, the offshore wind potential off the Atlantic coast, the United States Atlantic coast is sufficient to what supply in potential...
Jeff Grybowski: Yeah the whole country, right. You know, the wind resource itself - just measuring the strength and consistency of the wind - is extremely strong off the Atlantic coast. It’s must stronger the further North you get, and the sweet spot seems to be in that, you know, Washington DC to Boston part of the Atlantic. So, southern New Jersey where it really starts to pick up, maybe off of Maryland as well. All the way through the northeast to Cape Cod. And that stretch of ocean has incredibly strong wind resources. And it’s fortunate that, that’s where the wind resources because that’s also where a lot of people live.
Bill Loveless: Right. And where it’s often most difficult to build onshore energy infrastructure.
Jeff Grybowski: It’s incredibly difficult. You know, we the northeast is very densely populated obviously. And there is a history of big energy infrastructure projects failing in this part of the world. And new transmission lines have been proposed to bring Canadian hydropower into New England for instance. There have been some notable failures in that regard lately. A big project called the Northern Pass Project that was going to bring over 1000 megawatts of Canadian hydro from Canada, from HydroQuebec in Canada through New Hampshire into something New England failed. Even though it was supported by the government of New Hampshire, the governor of Massachusetts, the premieres in Canada and the biggest utility in the northeast. They all supported but the project failed.
Bill Loveless: Right.
Jeff Grybowski: Because of local opposition and frankly, they were gonna run the line through the white mountains that was maybe another reason. But infrastructure is hard to do where people live.
Bill Loveless: Yeah, and you mentioned Cape Wind before. I mean, that was one of the, I mean, cape wind went through that phase that seemed sort of opposition way back when it was people who were concerned about the view seeing those turbines on the horizon or and spoiling their view from the coastal shores. Of course, you and I have discussed in the past. The turbines that are planned now are much farther offshore.
Jeff Grybowski: Yeah, that’s a critical difference between the cape wind project which was proposed to be right there in Nantucket Sound, where almost all of the turbines would have been quite visible both from Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. So that project was quite close to shore. And the projects that we are talking about now, all these projects in federal waters, the 20 gigawatts of projects on the Atlantic seaboard. For the most part are 15 to 25, 30 miles offshore and that’s a pretty critical difference because when you get to that 15 to 20 miles range, the turbines become very, very difficult to spot. And particularly in most days when visibility is not great. So, you largely take the visibility and aesthetic issue off the table when you build in these big federal water sites.
Bill Loveless: Right. Tell me a little bit about some of the projects that are planned right now. Some of them are by your old company Orsted which of course bought Deepwater Wind back last fall. And others, of course, there are some other big players out there in these waters as will. But what are some of the big projects that we are seeing out there?
Jeff Grybowski: Yeah. There, you know, I can go up and down the coast a little bit. Probably the next utility scale project to go in the water will be a project called the Skip Jack Wind Farm which is off the coast of Maryland. It’s about a 120 megawatt project that Orsted is developing to serve the Delmarva Peninsula in the state of Maryland. There are…
Bill Loveless: How many turbines would…
Jeff Grybowski: That’s probably around 10 to 15. You’ve got a big project that Orsted is going to develop off the coast of southern New Jersey. That’s an 1100 megawatt wind farm. So, over a gigawatt.
Bill Loveless: As I understand that maybe the biggest ones, biggest one.
Jeff Grybowski: That is the biggest single allocation that’s been made so far.
Bill Loveless: Allocation in terms of…
Jeff Grybowski: From a state. Yeah, so that’s the single biggest offshore wind farm that has been awarded a contract to sell its energy. So, the state of New Jersey selected Orsted for that project. Just a couple of months ago now. So, that’s an over a gigawatt. So, that’s a, you know, in capacity terms, the size of your typical, really big conventional power plant.
Bill Loveless: Yeah, like a nuclear power plant.
Jeff Grybowski: Exactly, exactly. Just 1.1 gigawatts. And then you have this cluster of projects off the southern New England coast as you go from southern New Jersey to the southern New England coast, you’ve got Vineyard Wind. That’s got to working on 800 megawatt project which is south of the vineyard in Nantucket. And then immediately to the west of them Orsted has another cluster of projects that will serve New York state through Long Island, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Bill Loveless: Right and the states in those cases, New York, I think most recently have…
Jeff Grybowski: That’s right.
Bill Loveless: Have made big decisions.
Jeff Grybowski: Yeah, New York made two awards. They awarded over 800 megawatts to Orsted and they made another award to a company called Equinor, that’s developing a project just south of Long Island. So, there are a number of projects up and down the East Coast that have both secured the leases offshore and have secured revenue offtake contracts from the utilities or the states that they are closed to.
Bill Loveless: You’re talking power purchase.
Jeff Grybowski: Power purchase agreements. Exactly. So, the next stage for all of those projects for the most part as to begin their or to get through their permitting process. And in Deepwater’s case when we were going through that process with Block Island, that you know, that took a number of years.
Bill Loveless: And as in state waters…
Jeff Grybowski: That was in state waters.
Bill Loveless: It’s federal waters.
Jeff Grybowski: Yeah, so this is the first time that federal government is going through this process and I don’t think that the agency as you mentioned the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, if you had asked a few years ago, they will be processing all these permits for all of these projects, all at once. Remember, we had no projects in the United States for a long time and then we had one project that was proceeding. And suddenly, we’ve gone from that one project going in the water in 2016 to the slew of huge wind farms off the Atlantic coast. And I think it’s fair to say that, it’s almost everyone ought to admit that this is going faster than they expected.
Bill Loveless: Really?
Jeff Grybowski: At this point.
Bill Loveless: But when you say that now, I have to think immediately what I have been reading in the newspapers most recently and it has to do with the Vineyard Wind project which is one that would be, that would be developed by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avon Grid Renewables. And it’s been quite a bit in the papers lately on this because the bureau of ocean energy management has decided to conduct an extended environmental review. Much longer than had been anticipated. What I have read may not be done until like 2020, whereas the company had expected it would be done by now.
Jeff Grybowski: Well, I think, you always have to be careful of the expectations. So, when we were developing the Block Islad Wind Farm, you know we understood that we needed to take a real hard look at what the real expectations of the project ought to be in terms of timeline and budget, things like that. And you’ve got to build a fair amount of uncertainty and conservativism frankly. And I think in the case of vineyard wind, you know, on the one hand, the developer saying, well, we expected the permit by a certain date and the federal government saying, well thanks not really how the permitting process works. We’ve got a job to do and we are doing it. It’s taking longer than developer would like. I suppose it’s not terribly unusual in the development business. The permitting agencies knowing maybe not quite as fast as the developer would like. So, I don’t necessarily see that as a great shock. I would say, I’m not surprised to put it that way that perhaps the agencies aren’t moving with lightning speed for the first utility scale offshore wind farm in America.
Bill Loveless: Right. You know, I hear, we’re just saying these things never go as fast as you anticipate but you know, I guess from that developer standpoint, you know, they saw the ocean energy management indicate that the project look like it would have, it would have a severe impact on things in near term or long term although. I took a note on this. I mean the draft environmental impact statement said that the project would have a negligible to moderate environmental impact but predicted moderate to major short term economic impact on commercial and recreational fishing. It also said the cumultive impact of seven other proposed offshore wind farms, it also assessed these other farms finding that together they would not pose significant risk to air and water quality and marine life. And of course, this assessment that they are talking about, this is gonna take longer than expected is not just vineyard wind as I understand. But it’s these other projects including some that Orsted was involved in, so…
Jeff Grybowski: Well, I guess, I would, I would say again, I’m not surprised. We have 30 megawatts in operation in the United States right now offshore. And the proposals that are on the table add up to something well over 10,000 megawatts. All of which are proceeding at roughly the same pace. Give or take a few years, right. So, you’ve got federal agencies, stakeholders by the way, and when you talk about stakeholders like fishermen, who are saying, wait a minute, we have the experience of 30 megawatts and now, we are gonna move from 30 megawatts to 10,000 megawatts all in one step. So, I guess, as a developer, I’d say I’m not shocked that some agencies and stakeholders are hoping it take a bit more of a look at things. And you know, I’m also pretty optimistic that most of these projects are gonna get built and they are gonna get built mostly on their timeline. But if you’re a developer and you can’t withstand, you know, wiggle room a few months or a year, one direction or another, then maybe you haven’t planned as well as you should have.
Bill Loveless: But of course in the case of this wind farm too, they were kind of take an investment tax credit that expires at the end of the year.
Jeff Grybowski: Absolutely.
Bill Loveless: If they don’t begin construction by the end of the year, they don’t get that investment tax credit which I understand is factored into what they…
Jeff Grybowski: It sounds to me like a conscious risk that they undertook knowing that they have a tax credit at stake and that they needed permitting process to go on a particular pace first time through the gates, so, again, I put that in there in the category of when you’re developing a project, you’ve got to plan for contingencies. You’ve got to plan for things not going the way you hoped them to go. You don’t develop a project with, your most optimistic schedule, your most optimistic budget. Everything is most optimistic thing you can plan for. That certainly isn't the way I would approach project development. I approach it from the perspective of let’s try to eliminate as many of the bad things as possible, and assume they are all gonna happen.
Bill Loveless: So, you don't see anything nefarious here. Again there are so many - Michael Gerard, he’s the director of the Saban center for climate change at Columbia University and you know, he told climate news you know, that the Department of Interior has practically tripped itself speeding up the approval of fossil fuel projects and now they are slow walking this renewable project. That’s Gerard’s word, in the headline stories, is there a double standard?
Jeff Grybowski: I don’t think there is at all. I think that when Massachusetts selected the vineyard project and Vineyard Wind project schedule was announced, I was shocked at their schedule. I didn’t think, it was possible to be done in that time frame. So, I think again when you’re proposing a project that if the Vineyard Wind project were in operation today, I think it would be the biggest offshore wind farm in the world today. Now, there are others that are in construction that eventually be larger. Yeah. 800 megawatts is a really, really, really big project, right. And again, we’ve got the experience of 30 megawatts in the water. So, you know, I don’t think, I’m not troubled by the fact that federal agencies are saying, "We need to take a hard look at all of these projects from an environmental perspective, given the fact that our collective expectations of how much is going to get built and how soon has really changed recently." We simply didn’t see these much being built this fast. If you go back just a year or two and now, we have these mega projects that are proposed up and down the East Coast. So, again, I’m just not shocked that the timeline is slipping. Who gets shocked that a government agency says, sorry the timeline is slipping? If that’s a shock to you, then maybe you haven’t been around for too long.
Bill Loveless: You know, we talked about the investment tax credit and did the other projects, I mean, these other projects are not as far along as Vineyard Wind has been. I mean others, including some from Orsted. I mean,
Jeff Grybowski: Well, what I would say is, a number of these projects did not make the same aggressive assumptions on timelines that vineyard did.
Bill Loveless: Okay.
Jeff Grybowski: I think a lot of these projects were proposed and were awarded power contracts right around the same time. And I think almost all of them that have been awarded today, I can’t speak to every one of them because some of this is probably confidential. But many of them are relying on the federal revised federal tax credits.
Bill Loveless: But this big one, the investment, the federal investment tax credit, I mean that’s…
Jeff Grybowski: It’s expiring, you know, now. It’s expiring.
Bill Loveless: So, it seems, I’m assuming that many of the other projects including ones you’re involved with previously, were not counting on that ITC.
Jeff Grybowski: Some of them were and the tax credit has a declining value over time and so, you can take, you could have taken a very aggressive view as to which, what amount of tax credit you qualify for which would have required an aggressive timeline and if you took a less aggressive timeline, then you had to assume a lower amount of credit because credit is going away over time. And each year that passes, allows you to qualify for a lower tax credit. So, if you really wanted the biggest tax credit, you could get, you had to come up with a really aggressive timeline. And if you had a less aggressive timeline, then you had to bank on smaller credit.
Bill Loveless: But in any case, you had to be in the water with construction by the end of this year in order to qualify.
Jeff Grybowski: It’s not exactly how it works. So, the critical distinction in the water. You don’t have to be in the water. You do have to begin construction. And beginning construction can include things like manufacturing components somewhere in the world that you’ve paid for. So, you don’t have to be in the water but you need to start building the project and much of the project construction happens onshore.
Bill Loveless: I see.
Jeff Grybowski: So, maybe you’re building blades for instance or some other component of the project.
Bill Loveless: I see. And so that’s probably what’s going on then with many of these projects?
Jeff Grybowski: I think yes, exactly. I think any project that any offshore wind project that is relying on a tax credit right now since none of them are in the water today, they are all relying on this manufacturing or some other construction type activity that is occurring somewhere else.
Bill Loveless: Going forward, how important is that tax credit to offshore wind?
Jeff Grybowski: Well, I think, you know, and the tax credit is going away, the reality is, everyone needs to rely on it not being there.
Bill Loveless: Don’t you think, it should be renewed as legislation, it would do that.
Jeff Grybowski: I think that the industry will get along without it. I think a tax credit means is a difference, it affects the pace of development and the scale. So, if we really want to speed up lots of offshore wind, then a larger tax credit would help. Without the tax credit, projects will proceed, new projects will be proposed and win approvals. But probably just not the same pace.
Bill Loveless: Right. How competitive Jeff are these projects in terms of the prices that they would charge for the electricity that they generate? I mean, how competitive are they compared to say natural gas, other alternatives and how do they compare to the prices people say, the one today?
Jeff Grybowski: Yeah, so maybe if I take one step back and before I go into offshore wind, maybe just talk about wind more broadly. So, right now, many parts of the United States and many markets wind, building a new wind farm is the single cheapest form of power that you can procure. There is a recent report came out by a financial firm called Lazard. Every year Lazard comes out with a report and they compare the cost of different types of energy, different types of power plants, wind solar gas, nuclear coal, all of the above. And this year’s report which recently just came out, they concluded that it is in many markets in the United States, cheaper to build a new wind farm and in some cases cheaper to build a new solar farm than it is continue buying power from an existing gas or nuclear plant. And if you then take into account the cost of building a new coal or gas plant, then the price differential is even more stark and even more favorable to wind and solar. And that’s not true in every single market and every single wind farm. But when they look at the broad ranges of cost of wind in the United States versus nuclear power versus coal, versus natural gas. Wind wins quite often as the cheapest power source.
Bill Loveless: And what about offshore wind?
Jeff Grybowski: Yeah, and so, that’s kind of the wind story generally and I guess the point to not lose track of, that’s on an unsubsidized basis they looked at it. They stripped out the subsidy for wind power. They said, even on an unsubsidized basis, wind beats these other conventional sources in many cases. Offshore wind is 20 or 30 years younger than onshore wind. So, its pricing isn’t nearly that competitive. So, offshore wind is still more expensive than onshore wind. However, you can use offshore wind in places where you can’t use onshore wind. Like let’s say metropolitant New York or southern New England or Southern New Jersey or the eastern shore of Maryland. Those are not places where you can build big onshore wind farm as like you can in South Dakota or Oklahoma. So, in those areas, you have this dilemma of energy being hard to do because you can’t. It’s hard to build things and in New England, Long Island, offshore wind is really competitive with all the other choices. I think it’s, you know, hands down offshore wind for Long Island is the cheapest source of new energy. You could not possibly build a new natural gas plant and compete with offshore wind. Offshore wind blows it away. In New England, it’s more of a theoretical exercise because no one is building new gas plants in New England. It’s really hard to site one of those. So, you know, you can look at a theoretical sort of construct of building a new gas plant in New England. There was a really large plant proposed here in Southern New England just for the last year, really controversial. It was just rejected by state citing board. I think that’s the only gas plant that was on New England today. So, it’s really hard to build a lot of these resources and we are seeing that the vineyard project which won the competition in Massachusetts at an incredibly attractive price, right. It’s a really low power price.
Bill Loveless: It was lower than the average price by Massachusetts.
Jeff Grybowski: Yeah. That’s exactly right. So the vineyard wind electricity price has slighted to save ratepayers in Massachusetts a lot of money. And I forgot exactly what their number is but it’s in the seven or eight cents a kilowatt hour range which is, which is lower than sort of the existing mix of power prices in New England. So, you’ve got offshore wind coming in at very, very competitive pricing. Orsted projects in Connecticut in Rhode Island is slighted to save a lot of money as well in those places.
Bill Loveless: So the price that the price that Orsted would charge for that electricity say like the national grid, right would be less than what the average price of electricity is.
Jeff Grybowski: That’s right. That’s exactly right.
Bill Loveless: Was that the case with the block island farm?
Jeff Grybowski: No, block island was much, much more expensive than the average price. Much smaller project obviously. But when you get to scale, when you go from small projects to really large projects, you drive down the cost, the unit cost of the energy producing a lot because you’re not building lots of stuff and you get to spread your fixed cost at over a lot of power that you’re generating. And the technology is improving. The technology is just, is more efficient, it’s bigger and better today than it was five years ago even. So, we are seeing turbines get much, much larger. The block island wind farm has a series five separate six megawatt machines for 30 megawatts. But the latest machine proposed by one of the major manufacturers is a 12 megawatt machine that GE has in development and they’ve actually built the first one, these massive 12 megawatt machines that they think it’s the tip of the blade. It’s well over 800 feet tall. 800 feet tall. The Statue of Liberty is about 300 feet tall just for context. So, these are really, really large machines and so, obviously when you go from a six megawatt machine to a 12 megawatt machine, to get the same amount of power out of that full project, you need half as many turbines to generate the same amount of electricity. So, you can imagine how your cost of construction go down pretty dramatically.
Bill Loveless: Right. You mentioned fisheries before and when we were talking about the some of the challenges you faced when you developed these farms, one in New England area certainly is fisherries and that’s been one of the big issues that vineyard wind runs up against as I understand it. There is disagreement between the fishing industry and the developer and the case with other developers as well over the space between the turbines and the fishing industry claiming that it’s insufficient and it’s gonna disrupt the industry and even be dangerous for the vessels and all that are out there. How valid a consideration is that?
Jeff Grybowski: Yeah, it’s a very valid concern. You know, I think the principle, let’s say user conflict that we have out there would be offshore wind and commercial fishing. It’s the critical issue. It’s a critical neighborhood issue. The two neighbors, we’ve got the existing neighbor and the new neighbor coming into town and we have to very seriously grapple with these issues of how to use the same ocean for two very different types of pursuits. It’s something that is eminently fixable. But it will take some experience here in the U.S. to get there. It isn’t fixed by one side or the other dictating what the solution is. So, there are compromises to be had and there are really complex issues about whether it’s turbine spacing or the alignment of turbines for instance to create long roads that vessels can traverse which direction of those roads facing, do those face in the same way that the fish swim for instance. So, fish move around and some of them in pretty predictable patterns and so, if you’re fishing in a particular pattern for 50 years, and you suddenly have a row of turbines that prevents your fishing vessel from using that pattern, you can no longer get to that species that you’ve been fishing for a long time. Well, that’s a problem. And those problems are different depending on which part of the ocean you’re using. So, it isn’t a single sort of solution for offshore wind and fishing, it’s a very site specific geographic specific issue because for different species that fishermen go after, they are using different gear. Their geology on the seabed is different. It’s a very complicated issue and throw on top of that everyone else’s concerns. So, there maybe shipping channels, ships lanes have to be taken care of. You’ve got the department of defense issues. You’ve got aviation, radar issues. You might have some archaeological sites you have to avoid.
Bill Loveless: But for the fishing, how do you, I mean, I’ve read what the distances are that have proposed on the fishing industry fields and there should be wide, or whatever. How do you resolve that? I mean…
Jeff Grybowski: Well, I mean, certainly, it takes a whole lot of dialogue, a whole lot of structured dialogue with all the parties at the table and everyone, you know, getting to the point eventually and willing to make compromise.
Bill Loveless: Okay, you don’t have to pick between industries. You don’t have to pick between wind turbines.
Jeff Grybowski: I don’t think so. I mean, I think, you know, there is always a certain amount of posturing going on and these kinds of pretty high stake negotiations. So, and there are different opinions on both sides within each side. It’s not as if all developers on one side and all fishermen on the other side have exactly the same view to how to make, how to work things out. So, that’s the complex part because you get different developer ideas on how much space do we need. How much space is too much or too little. You’ve got fishermen who want different things. Some care more about which way the turbines are aligned, some care more about the spacing. They have, everyone has a different idea and how to fix it. So, part of this environmental review process that occurs for each one of these projects is pretty important part is bringing all these stakeholders together. And trying to find the most reasonable mix decisions for everyone.
Bill Loveless: One reason why more time maybe needed.
Jeff Grybowski: I think so. And this is the first big, big project that anyone is having to deal with. So, remember that you’ve got off the southern New England coast, you have a lot of valuable fisheries. So important Bedford has the most valuable fish, is the most valuable port in the United States in terms of the value of the fish landings.
Bill Loveless: I just learned that because of the scallops right. They are high priced.
Jeff Grybowski: So, you’ve got scallop fishermen who fish one way, and then the lobster men in Southern New England, maybe fish a different way. And other types of fishermen, scattered from Montauk to Cape Cod, maybe you know, there are a number of different fisheries out there. And they all have different opinions about how to work with offshore wind. Some of them don’t want to work with offshore wind. And then among developers, they all have different views on how to build projects and what’s valuable. So, it becomes pretty complicated.
Bill Loveless: Yeah, for companies like Orsted and others that are coming in, you know, Copenhagen infrastructure partners and others are coming in from Europe where they have had so much experience and success with offshore wind development. Is this sort of new types of issues to contend with in the United States?
Jeff Grybowski: You know, broadly speaking a number of these issues are not new. Obviously there is fishing and other parts of the world and there is fishing in northern Europe as well. But there are important differences as well, you know, certainly our governmental structure is very different. So, the federal, state, local, the jurisdictional issues between states and the approach that different stakeholders have, it’s new and so, you know, I advice folks to not go to meeting with fishermen and say, don’t worry, we already figured this out in Europe. That’s probably not a good way to take the side of the stakeholders that you’re trying to come to agreement with.
Bill Loveless: Right, right.
Jeff Grybowski: You’ve got to start from the beginning with people and build the trust over time.
Bill Loveless: What advice, would you have for policy makers? Now east got in this business more or less as a policy maker back for as we talked about before back in the early 2000s when governor Donald Carcieri was running Rhode Island. You were his chief of staff and you guys put together the policies I assume with the assistance of state legislators and others. But that made possible the wind energy development of Rhode Island coast. You went on into the offshore wind developer. What have you learnt from that? What advice would you have for people in the policy sector right now?
Jeff Grybowski: Yeah. I think it’s more, I think it’s important to get it right. Getting it right is more important than going fast. I think that’s my overall view of things. Offshore wind is going to be huge energy resource in the United States. It ought to be. And it will eventually. We get a lot of project proposals. It has incredible potential. And we should be building big projects as soon as we reasonably can. That doesn’t mean that we need to damm the torpedoes and go full speed ahead. Notwithstanding any other concerns, right that you know, sometimes projects founder for their own fault. So, I think it’s important to get it right so that you set the table for building a big sustainable industry over time and tapping into this big sustainable resource over time. That is, that is more important going fast because I really do fear project failures that leave a really bad taste in people’s mouth for the next project and the project after that one. I think that actually is more detrimental to the industry than taking your time and making sure you get it right.
Bill Loveless: Yeah, and particularly important for a nascent industry such as offshore.
Jeff Grybowski: That’s exactly right. Wind energy.
Bill Loveless: Jeff Grybowski, thanks for joining us again on the Columbia Energy Exchange. Enjoyed the conversation.
Jeff Grybowski: Thank you.
Bill Loveless: Well, that’s our conversation. I hoped you enjoyed it. For more on the Columbia Energy Exchange and the Center on Global Energy Policy, go to our webpage at Energypolicy.columbia.edu. Or find us on social media at Columbiauenergy. For Columbia Energy Exchange, I’m Bill Loveless. We’ll be back again next week with another conversation.