A flood of cheap power generated by planned U.S. offshore wind projects could find its way onto Canada’s power grid, reversing a long-standing trend of mostly one-way trade that sees massive exports of Canadian hydropower to the U.S.
The Biden administration’s recent approval of the first major wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts kick-started a plan for 30 GW of offshore wind capacity to be installed by 2030. Vineyard Wind LLC’s 800-MW Vineyard Offshore Wind Project and subsequent projects could upset a captive clean energy market for province-owned Hydro-Québec, which has for decades exported power from its network of dams to New York and New England. Infrastructure expansions are already underway to meet renewable portfolio standards in U.S. states, including Central Maine Power Co.’s New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line, which would carry Quebec-generated power to Massachusetts. Central Maine is a subsidiary of Avangrid Inc., which itself is a partner in the Vineyard Offshore project.
Even if offshore wind does not reach President Joe Biden’s ambitious goals, with 30 projects proposed in U.S. waters, there will likely be enough power sources to disrupt the traditional import-export market with Canada, industry experts said. Although Bloomberg NEF’s forecast of 23 GW offshore wind installations by 2030 falls short of the U.S. government’s prediction, Melina Bartels, an associate for Bloomberg NEF, said the volume of power flowing onto the Northeastern U.S. grid will be high enough to drive down winter prices and create opportunity to send power north of the border. The extra power in New England could send winter power prices 40% below those seen in the last few years in five years, Bartels said, and multiple transmission connections could create favorable conditions to send power to Canada.