The legislation would help give the state a say on the development of offshore wind. (Getty Images)
A quarter of a million dollars of American Rescue Plan money will go toward studying the impacts of developing offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine, following Executive Council approval of the contract on Wednesday.
The contract runs through June 30, 2023.
The assessment will look at economic, energy, and environmental impacts associated with offshore wind, with the aim of providing information to lawmakers, policymakers, and the general public, according to the contract.
The interim commissioner of the Department of Energy, Jared Chicoine, said the process of developing a request for proposal would be transparent and open to public input. In the request for the funding, Chicoine said a public hearing would be held to help determine the scope of the study.
“We’re probably many years away from wind turbines being built in the Gulf of Maine,” Chicoine told the Executive Council on Wednesday.
Gov. Chris Sununu said he anticipated offshore wind arriving sooner – within a few years. “Not a number (of years),” he insisted. “A few.”
The areas where turbines can be constructed have been determined by the Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which will hold an auction to determine who gets to construct the turbines.
Councilor Ted Gatsas, a Manchester Republican, raised concerns over whether the turbines would be visible from the New Hampshire coast, a scenario that Chicoine said was unlikely given that the turbines will be sited in federal waters, which are farther out than state waters. That wasn’t Gatsas’s only concern.
“I would hope that we could find a way to retain energy for the future,” Gastas said.
“It is being discussed,” Chicoine said.
An Offshore Wind Commission is currently meeting to discuss issues related to offshore wind, like procurement. They will meet next week to discuss transmission, Chicoine said.
Sununu said a power purchase agreement, to procure energy from offshore wind, would be “a great idea.”
The contract passed in a 4-1 vote. Republican Councilor Joseph Kenney was the only vote in opposition.
In a written statement, Mark Sanborn called the study an “information gathering exercise.” Sanborn is currently an energy advisor at the New Hampshire Department of Energy. During Wednesday’s Executive Council meeting, he was nominated by the governor for the assistant commissioner position at the Department of Environmental Services. The salary of that role is $108,000.
Previously, Sanborn has worked with the Office of Strategic Initiatives, as well as the Department of Transportation.
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