Sununu Requests State-Federal Offshore Wind Task Force; Advocates Court Supply Business

Jan 7, 2019

Credit WPS Geography

Business support for offshore wind is building in New Hampshire.

Governor Chris Sununu said Monday he'd requested a federal task force that would be a first step to development.

But some advocates aren’t waiting to try and court the growing industry.

Michael Behrmann works with the trade group Clean Energy New Hampshire – the new name for the state’s former Sustainable Energy Association and Clean Tech Council.

Last fall, Behrmann led a delegation of lobbyists and energy developers to Denmark, which he says is an offshore wind hotspot. The group met with industry leaders who may want to expand to the Northeast.

“My whole emphasis was not – pun intended – missing the boat on this,” Behrmann says, “and making sure that New Hampshire can actually participate now, rather than having to compete harder in the future when more of that infrastructure for the country is kind of established.”

Behrmann says likely wind growth in nearby states like Maine and Massachusetts means New Hampshire could attract related businesses to Pease International Tradeport, in Portsmouth.

It has a deep-water port and easy transportation access, Behrmann says, which could supply potential wind projects elsewhere -- even before any active wind development directly off the Seacoast.

The task force Sununu requested this month will let state and local authorities weigh in as federal regulators study whether to set up leasing areas for potential wind development.

(Click here to see more about the comparable task force set up in Massachusetts in 2009.) 

Only a few states that have a task force, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island, have actually reached the point of selling leases to specific developers or projects.

But Behrmann says there's still business to be gained now. 

“You’re looking at what’s going to become one of the largest markets in the world for offshore wind,” Behrmann says of the East Coast. “We do not currently, in the U.S., have a lot of manufacturers that can supply this type of rapid development.”

Behrmann says New Hampshire’s business commissioner, Taylor Caswell, supported the Denmark trip as a way to find new opportunities in clean technology.

A recent auction in Massachusetts nearly doubled past records for the sale price of federal offshore wind leasing areas. And projects off Cape Cod and Rhode Island are already in the works.

Meanwhile, Maine’s new Democratic governor, Janet Mills, has pledged to support offshore wind, potentially ending her Republican predecessor Paul LePage’s moratorium on development.

This story has been updated.