In a stunning development for clean energy in New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced today that New York plans to build enough offshore wind capacity by 2030 to power 1.25 million New York homes, starting with a 90-megawatt project 30 miles off Montauk on Long Island’s South Fork.
This new commitment to 2400 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind power came in his Long Island regional State of the State speech one day after he announced that the troubled Indian Point nuclear facility in Westchester County will close by 2021 and that the state plans to replace its power with clean energy and low-carbon energy resources.
With today’s announcement, New York State will become the nation’s leader on clean, offshore wind power.
The South Fork Offshore Wind Farm
The 90 MW South Fork offshore wind project would supply electricity to 50,000 South Fork homes, helping to meet peak demand in the area and would, via an underwater cable, deliver electricity directly to East Hampton to help the town meet its forward-looking plan to get 100 percent of its electricity from clean sources by 2030.
The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA)’s South Fork project, the start of something really big in New York, has several noteworthy aspects. It will be sited 30 miles from land, and therefore not visible from shore, avoiding any possible complaints about visual impacts. Also, because Deepwater Wind, the project developer, already owns the lease for the wind energy area where it wants to build the project, the company now has the essentials it needs for offshore wind development: a site, a lease, and a long-term contract, vastly increasing the likelihood that this project will come to fruition. (Deepwater is also the developer of the country’s first offshore wind power project, the 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm, located off the Rhode Island coast, which came online in December.) Of course, the project will still need to go through federal and state permitting and environmental review processes before the company gets the go-ahead to put steel in the water.
Importantly, Deepwater Wind has already shown its commitment to protecting the marine environment and ecosystems by working with NRDC and other environmental organizations in developing plans to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, which migrate up and down the East Coast. We intend to work with Deepwater on ecosystem-protection measures for the South Fork project, assuming the project moves ahead.
New York’s Ambitious Offshore Wind Plans
The governor’s announcement of an ambitious offshore wind program for New York—that 2,400 megawatt commitment—is an exciting one. As is all too clear, we need states like New York to lead on climate and clean energy issues now more than ever. Here in New York, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the state’s clean energy agency, estimates there are enough offshore wind resources to power at least 15 million homes, as described in a report that it published in the fall. NYSERDA will be following that report up with a New York Offshore Wind Master Plan this fall. It will lay out the full scope of New York’s plans for offshore wind power.
The governor’s and NYSERDA’s efforts to scale up offshore wind power in New York are good news for a host of reasons. To begin with, with offshore wind power’s help, New York City and Long Island can improve the reliability of their electric supply because appropriately sited underwater cables, placed in ways that protect ecosystems and marine life, can bring electricity into areas that have no room for new land-based transmission infrastructure and now sometimes strain under electric demand.
Offshore wind power also produces the most power when we need it most—on hot summer days and cold winter days and nights, when energy demand soars and brings online the most expensive and polluting power plants—meaning it can save us money on electricity and help our kids breathe cleaner air, too. As LIPA CEO Thomas Falcone told The Associated Press when the proposed South Fork project was initially announced, the project will be “the first in New York, it’s the largest to date, but we’re looking at this and seeing a tremendous offshore wind resource that will be developed.”
This promise is much more than theoretical. In December, when the Department of the Interior (DOI) held an auction for leasing rights to another New York offshore wind power area, 11 nautical miles off of Long Beach on Long Island, the auction went through an unheard-of 33 rounds of bidding before the DOI awarded the lease to the Norwegian company Statoil for more than $40 million. That’s more than was paid for the first 11 federal wind energy area leases together. The excellent news here is that Statoil will explore building as much as 1,000 megawatts of offshore wind power in the area, beginning with a project that will generate between 400 and 600 megawatts.
This week, Governor Cuomo has shown again his inspiring commitment to climate and clean energy issues. Now more than ever, New York and the nation need his brand of bold and innovative leadership.