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Eastern winds

The Walney offshore wind farm, England.

After a yearlong battle, lawmakers in Massachusetts voted to adopt a sweeping omnibus renewable energy bill that puts the state at the forefront of offshore wind development. The legislation, An Act Relative to Energy Diversity, requires utilities to secure 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2027. An additional procurement was included for 9.45 terawatt hours of “clean energy generation,” which will come from hydroelectric power imported from Canada or state-side onshore renewables like solar and wind. The bill also tasks the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources with investigating the possibility of setting energy storage targets for utilities, mirroring similar efforts in Oregon and California.

“Massachusetts is always at the forefront of adopting innovative clean energy solutions, and this legislation will allow us to build on that legacy and embrace increased amounts of renewable energy, including hydropower,” Republican Governor Charlie Baker said at the signing ceremony in August. The compromise bill was passed after 18 month of political wrangling, with the governor’s office fighting hard for more imported hydropower to be included in the final language.

The legislation will make it easier for the state to meet its 25 per cent target for emissions reduction by 2020. A number of aging power generation stations are slated for retirement over the next five years, including the 1,530 megawatt Brayton Point coal plant. Proponents of the offshore wind provision, headed by House Speaker Pro Tem Patricia Haddad, also argue that it will help kickstart the Massachusetts offshore wind industry. While Rhode Island’s Block Island facility is currently the only offshore wind project under construction in the United States, significant portions off the Atlantic coast are viewed as attractive locations due to their proximity to large markets and heavy winds.

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