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Wind power execs say deal will give Connecticut greater access

Source: 
New Haven Register

Oct. 11--A top executive of the Danish energy giant Orsted said his company's acquisition of a smaller Providence, R.I.-based wind farm will allow Connecticut homes and businesses greater access to renewable power.

Thomas Brostrom, chief executive officer of Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind and president of the company's North America operations, said the company has the financial resources and technical know-how to bring multiple wind farms to operation off of the coast of southern New England.

The proposed acquisition of Providence-based Deepwater Wind, which was announced Monday from the D.E. Shaw Group, is part of the natural evolution of an industry that is still in its infancy in North America. Officials with both companies said there will be no layoffs as part of the deal.

"This type of consolidation within the industry has gone on for some time in Europe and around the world," Brostrom said. "There are number of companies out there that are in the business of developing these projects to a certain point. But there aren't that many out there that can bring a project that is highly complicated and involves doing installations under difficult conditions to completion."

That's important because in June, Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environment Protection selected Deepwater Wind as one of the winners of its renewable energy-procurement efforts. The 200-megawatt project, which could be operational by 2023, will be built in federal waters about halfway between Montauk, N.Y., and Martha's Vineyard.

Jeffrey Grybowski, chief executive officer of Deepwater Wind, said his company's acquisition by Orsted "is a sign that we are ready to grow." If the proposed deal is approved by regulators, it likely will close by the end of this year.

The proposed acquisition of Deepwater will create a new company known as Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind, which will have Brostrøm and Grybowski as co-chief executive officers.

Grybowski said officials with Deepwater Wind "have always known that we were going to do some kind of deal." The company currently has the only operating offshore wind farm in the United States, off the coast of Block Island.

"For several years now, we have been weighing a number of options," he said. "But it wasn't until relatively recently that the deal with Orsted came together."

State Rep. Lonnie Reed, D-Branford, said Connecticut lawmakers had been hearing rumors that Deepwater Wind was about to be sold. Reed, chairwoman of the legislature's Energy and Technology Committee, said the deal combining the two companies only further supports her belief that DEEP officials made the right choice.

"Orsted is highly respected in Europe and around the world," she said. "Before now, Deepwater Wind was owned by a hedge fund. If we're looking to make the transition (in energy supply) from what's now to what's next, this deal is good for us."

DEEP is in the midst of evaluating a second round of request for proposals that could add even more wind power to Connecticut's energy portfolio. Chris Collibee, a spokesman for the agency, said DEEP received more than 100 proposals for adding wind power and other forms of renewable energy to the state's current energy mix.

A decision on which projects DEEP officials will select should come by the end of the year, Collibee said.

Grybowski said Deepwater Wind had already submitted a pair of proposals into the latest selection process.

Connecticut wind power supporters will be watching with interest another proposal in play in the latest round of RFPs. The Vineard Wind project is joint venture between Orange-based Avangrid and another Danish company, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners.

Very little is known about the company's proposal at this point and Vineyard Wind officials have not returned several calls seeking information.

But in a news release put out by the joint venture company in mid-September, Vineyard Wind officials committed to invest $30 million in upgrading the port of Bridgeport in a partnership with McAllister Towing and the recently opened Bridgeport Boatworks shipyard. McAllister Towing operates the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson ferry.

Reed said the need for dredging Bridgeport's harbor -- and the difficulty of finding a place to dump the silt once the work is done -- could make it difficult for the project to move forward if it is selected in latest round of RFPs.

Joel Gordes, a West Hartford-based energy consultant, said DEEP officials need to be careful not to commit too much of the state's energy portfolio to wind power.

"I'm not saying that wind power is bad, but you're going to need a lot of (undersea) transmission cable to bring that power ashore," Gordes said. "That creates potential vulnerabilities for terrorism. My feeling is that some of the money that would otherwise go toward wind power should go toward fuels cells, so that the power generation could be distributed over many sites rather than the centralized power production model that wind power represents."

luther.turmelle@hearstmediact.com

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(c)2018 the New Haven Register (New Haven, Conn.)

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