Updated: Apr 26, 2021
Following graduation from Yale University in 2003, Peter Shattuck spent two years working, traveling and camping abroad. The history major from Washington, D.C. spent a year in New Zealand, then a year in Santiago, Chile where he taught English.
On his way back to the U.S., Shattuck traveled through the historic town of Potosi, Bolivia, one of the highest major cities in the world – it sits at 13,615 feet above sea level – and site of Cerro Potosi, once one of the largest silver mines in the Americas.
The riches of Cerro Potosi are now all but gone, but its citizens still suffer from the political and environmental fallout of its dark history. Small groups of independent contractors still work in the mine, usually without protective equipment, and often under very dangerous conditions.
Witnessing Potosi’s environmental challenges and social inequities made an immediate and profound impression on the young Shattuck. And it brought clarity to his nascent career path.
“Potosi is really a microcosm of bigger challenges that our society faces in addressing climate change,” said Shattuck. “It helped me realize how my interests in the environment, technology, history and economics could come together around environmental policy.”
Planning a New Approach
Today, as President for New England for Anbaric Development Partners, Wakefield, Mass., Shattuck oversees the company’s operations across Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. His role includes helping those states develop ocean transmission grids as a smart, cost-effective and environmentally sensitive way to import renewable wind energy into their local electrical grid.
Instead of using dedicated generator lead lines (GLL) to connect each wind farm to the closest substation of the onshore grid, ocean transmission grids gather electricity generated by multiple offshore wind farms and deliver it to shore at a centralized location.
“A planned approach to offshore transmission will consolidate cables in dedicated corridors offshore and reduce the quantity of cables on the ocean floor,” said Shattuck. “Laying fewer cables in fewer locations will minimize impacts on fisheries, marine ecosystems and shoreline communities.”
Ocean transmission grids would also be designed and constructed by independent transmission companies such as Anbaric for the benefit of all wind farms attached to the grid, he added. By contrast, current GLLs are typically constructed by individual wind farm developers and connected to shore in a way that best serves the market needs of that wind farm alone.
Building a Green Foundation
Shattuck built the foundation for his career in environmental policy at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, where he enrolled in graduate school after returning from South America. His studies culminated with a Master of Science degree in Environmental Science in 2007.
He also spent nine years at the Acadia Center, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization focused on climate and energy policy. As director of Acadia’s Massachusetts office and director of its Clean Energy Initiative, Shattuck helped develop and implement programs that supported energy efficiency, offshore wind, clean energy transmission, energy storage and market-based climate policy.
Minimizing Onshore Upgrades
As Shattuck sees it, the benefits of ocean transmission grids are many. For one thing, such grids will allow offshore power to be brought ashore near population centers where demand for electricity is highest versus the onshore substation that happens to lie closest, geographically, to a wind farm.
“If you bring say 2400 Megawatts (MW) of power ashore to a substation that’s only designed to handle and distribute 500 MW, you’ll have to invest substantial resources in upgrading that substation and all the transmission lines needed to carry the 2400 MW of power to population centers,” explained Shattuck. “Those added costs will show up on the electrical bills of consumers, not to mention the resistance that local communities may have to adding additional transmission lines in their neighborhood.”
Ocean transmission grids will also benefit rate payers by reducing costs and increasing price competition among offshore wind developers, he offers.
“By separating transmission costs from energy generation costs, offshore wind developers can focus on how best to connect their wind farm to the ocean grid instead of the cost of running that power to shore and connecting it to the local grid,” said Shattuck.
An ocean grid will also allow wind energy generators to compete on a level playing field instead of favoring wind farm developers whose offshore lease areas happen to be closer to shore or closer to population centers, he added.
Moving Ocean Grids Forward
So who then, should shoulder the burden of developing and maintaining ocean transmission grids? According to Shattuck, one of two models is likely.
In one model, a state government or onshore utility would develop and pay for the construction and maintenance of an ocean grid through a contract with an independent transmission company such as Anbaric. These transmission costs would be separate from power generation costs, and presumably would be paid, in effect, by ratepayers.
Under a second model, he continued, the grid could be developed and paid for by an entity such as the Independent System Operator – New England (ISO-NE). That organization would recover its costs by imposing a tariff on the states that receive wind energy from that grid.
“Under the first model, a state or utility might choose to build out its grid incrementally as demand for power warranted,” said Shattuck. “This approach was used very successfully by the State of Texas when it developed its Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) network to transmit wind energy from wind farms in West Texas and the Texas panhandle to the state’s largest population centers.”
Zooming to Work
Shattuck, who lives in the Boston suburb of Bedford, Mass., has adapted his professional work routine to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. Happily, he’s been able to substitute time he used to spend each morning making lunches for his three-year-old and seven-year-old “coworkers” for occasional runs and time playing with his family’s new puppy, an energetic mutt.But he never starts any day without a cup of English breakfast tea and a review of headlines from trade journals, the Boston Globe and National Public Radio.
For the most part, Shattuck’s days are occupied with Zoom webinars and meetings with clients. Occasionally, however, he hops in his 2017 Kia Sole electric vehicle for the 30-minute drive to his office at Anbaric’s headquarters for a change of scenery and some uninterrupted think time.
The most challenging aspect of working in a COVID-19 world, Shattuck finds, is the lack of real human contact, particularly at a time when offshore transmission is a less-than-well-understood concept among a group of new stakeholders.
“It is challenging being unable to meet local elected officials and other key stakeholders face-to-face, as that is a key part of the development process,” he laments.
Planning for Success
Still, Shattuck is bullish on the future of offshore transmission grids in general and the Connecticut OceanGrid in particular. So far, he explained, the State has approved a contract to procure 800 MW of power from the Park City Wind Project. As part of its commitment to having a carbon-free power sector by 2040, Connecticut plans to procure an additional 1200MW of offshore wind power by 2030.
“Departing from the status quo (i.e. transmission lines connecting wind farms directly to shore) is never easy,” said Shattuck, “but we also know that Connecticut has experienced the frustrations of having important renewable energy projects fail to materialize because of inadequate transmission plans.”
For the Connecticut OceanGrid, he offers, “we’re confident the State will come up with a well-defined, cost-efficient approach to transmission that will enable the high levels of renewable energy needed to truly decarbonize the local electric grid once and for all.”
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If you found this story interesting, I'd like to recommend that you check out my profile of Kirsty Townsend, a specialist in the development of offshore wind energy. If you have a suggestion for this blog, you can send ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org