Gov. Andrew Cuomo sees the opportunity to create a new industry centered largely on Long Island to take advantage of the offshore wind power in an area of the Atlantic Ocean, considered “the Saudi Arabia of wind power.”
In this, the state is acting much like other nations which jumpstart new industries by funding critical studies, research centers, workforce development.
This is all to ease the way, lessen the risk and increase the likelihood of success for the private companies which are expected to vie for leases from the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
Cuomo has set a standard of the state generating 50 percent of its energy needs through renewables by 2030, and offshore wind, in addition to solar, hilltop windpower, hydroelectric and other sources (“all of the above”) are considered essential to meeting that goal, which Cuomo has proudly declared the most ambitious in the nation.
Environmental groups including Sierra Club have long advocated offshore wind, especially as Long Island faces a crucial transition point of expanding or upgrading fossil-fuel based power plants to meet its energy needs, versus investing and transitioning to renewable energy.
The state has a goal to acquire 2,400 megawatts of energy from offshore wind – the equivalent of what is generated by the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant – enough to power 1.2 million households.
The associated industries that would develop to manufacture the wind turbines and platforms, to construct ports and stage the equipment, to install the turbines, to operate and maintain the systems are expected to employ some 5,000 people, and generate $6 billion in economic value for the local region.
What is more, over time, wind power will bring down the cost of electricity on Long Island, where high costs of energy are considered impediments to economic growth.
The master plan, being unveiled in public hearings, has been developed over a period of years by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
The strategy is to be the furthest along in order to be first in line to contract for the electricity, which could also be sold to New Jersey and other regions, to reduce cost and risk to private entities which will bid for the rights to construct and operate the wind turbines.
The state is not actually seeking to lease the sites, but to be the customer for the power. And the state is also aware that other customers – New Jersey, as one example (though the former Gov. Chris Christie showed little interest, the new governor Phil Murphy is) – will also be bidding.
But there is great confidence because of proximity and the sheer market size, that New York City and Long Island residents will be the beneficiary. And there is so much energy potential from this area, one of the best for offshore wind on the planet, that it is believed to have enough for everyone.
NYSERDA has conducted studies in 20 areas – defining every aspect of locating the best places to position turbines and cables, where to build ports and stage construction, where to manufacture the turbines and components, even where to invest in workforce development.
At the same time, the state has vigorously engaged stakeholders – including municipalities, nongovernmental organizations, environmentalists, labor unions, consumer advocates, and commercial fishing interests.
The state has allocated $15 million to spend on workforce development and infrastructure advancement (for example, building port facilities), and will be spending $20 million for research & development in component design, systems design, operational controls, monitoring systems, manufacturing processes, said Doreen Harris, director, Large Scale Renewables, NYSERDA.
To attract private investment in port infrastructure and manufacturing, the state is planning to spotlight promising infrastructure investments (60 potential port sites have been identified), help jumpstart project development and “secure the state’s status as the undisputed home for the emerging offshore wind industry in the US.”
Think of it: Long Island used to be the center for America’s aerospace industry.
Now it can be a leader in a global offshore wind power industry. What is more, offshore wind power can also bring down Long Island’s historically high utility rates which are considered an impediment to business development and economic growth.
“We’ve established technical working groups to determine the best use of funds – to ensure New Yorkers are well prepared to serve the offshore wind industry and connected to the global Industry.” Indeed, offshore wind is brand new for the U.S., but has been in force in Europe for 25 years.
The only kicker is that while New York State is being pro-active, it is BOEM that ultimately controls the leases and is undertaking similar studies, so people are concerned this can be unnecessarily time-consuming and duplicative.
And while BOEM under the Obama Administration was full-speed ahead and keen to develop off-shore wind power, concern was raised after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke declared the entire continental shelf open for drilling, and this prime windpower area used instead for drilling rigs or equally horrible Liquified Natural Gas terminals such as the Port Ambrose that had been beaten back by Gov. Cuomo.
But BOEM’s Energy Program Specialist Luke Feinberg, who attended NYSERDA’s May 8 public hearing in Melville expressed enthusiasm for offshore wind in this area.
BOEM presented a timetable that projects out two to five years before actual construction might begin; BOEM intends to hold its next lease auction no later than 2019.
BOEM is taking comments on the proposed “New York Bight” Call Area by May 29. Submit comments and view documents at boem.gov/New-York/.
The New York Public Service Commission is now considering a number of options for the state to advance solicitations once the leases are awarded; send comments by June 4, or view materials at http://documents.dps.ny.gov.