On the steps of City Hall today, a diverse group of clean-energy supporters from across the New York metropolitan area thanked Mayor de Blasio for his appropriately ambitious plan to get 100 percent of the city's operating energy--the electricity New York uses to run its schools, hospitals, fire houses and libraries--from renewable sources and urged him to make offshore wind power in the ocean waters off New York City a cornerstone of that plan. (To get a sense of how much electricity city government operations use, understand that it's the equivalent of a typical 500 megawatt fossil-fuel plant and costs us taxpayers between $600 and $650 million a year.)
A diverse coalition of clean energy supporters thanked New York City Mayor de Blasio
for his plan to get 100 percent of the city government's electricity from clean sources
and urged the use of offshore wind power. (Photo: Rob Friedman)
Mayor de Blasio is right in wanting to maximize New York City's great clean energy potential. Two-thirds of New York's buildings are capable of hosting solar panels. And anyone who's ever lived in a New York City apartment or worked in a New York office, hospital or warehouse can tell you there are a wealth of building-related energy-efficiency opportunities ripe for the picking. Land-based wind power has a place here, too. But to hit the mother lode of local, renewable energy--renewable energy that can be easily transmitted to our sometimes overstressed, undersupplied electric grid--we must be sure that offshore wind power plays a significant role. New York City should commit to get 5,000 megawatts of it by 2025.
Offshore wind power already supplies large amounts of pollution-free power in Europe and other parts of the world. And it has so much to offer our city: improved air quality and the better public health that comes with it; lower energy prices; more stability for that aforementioned, overtaxed electric grid; and, jobs in the thousands. For those reasons and more, the mayor should make it the cornerstone of any renewable energy acquisition.
In the wintery temperatures, the city's sustainability director, Nilda Mesa, reiterated how addressing climate change won't just help our environment but also our job-seekers. Clean energy and wind power are a priority for the de Blasio administration, she said.
Supporters in their down coats and woolen hats stamped their feet against the cold, and waved posterboard cut-outs of wind turbines, thanking the mayor for what is likely the largest municipal commitment to clean energy anywhere in the world. They urged him to move forward swiftly with offshore wind, making New York City an early leader. The turn-out mirrored the big crowds at the ceremony this November where Governor Cuomo vetoed a proposed Port Ambrose liquefied natural gas terminal, assuring fossil fuels wouldn't get in the way of offshore wind power development. It's great to see the enthusiasm New Yorkers have for clean energy!
The more than 100 supporters of offshore wind power who showed up at City Hall, including my colleagues Kaitlin Brazill and Rob Friedman, are part of one of the region's broadest coalitions, with representatives from upstate groups, like We Are Seneca Lake and Catskill Mountainkeeper, joining folks from the Lower East Side Ecology Center, the Park Slope Methodist Church, Northern Manhattan's WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Bronx Climate Justice North, the Citizens Committee for New York City, the Sane Energy Project, the Alliance for Climate Education, Rockaway Wildfire, and Long Island offshore wind power stalwarts from the Sierra Club. (They're so serious about offshore wind power that two summers ago, one of their volunteers, Matt Kearns, ran 90 miles along the South Shore in one day to promote state policy changes that would advance the clean-energy technology.)
Both New York State and the federal government have key roles to play in making offshore wind power in New York a reality. But New York City can help bring plans for offshore wind off of the drawing boards and into the water by committing to the technology in its procurement plans. Because offshore wind power produces the most electricity when it's needed most--on hot summer afternoons and bitter cold winter days and nights like the ones we endured last weekend--it can help reduce the need to bring the most expensive and polluting "peaker" power plants online. Many of them are located in the city's poorest neighborhoods, where they expose some of the most vulnerable residents of our city--low-income kids, seniors and families--to high levels of dangerous air pollution. Offshore wind power must be sited sustainably, with appropriate protections for marine wildlife and ecosystems. But NRDC, with our environmental allies and offshore wind developers, are hard at work making sure that offshore wind development and marine ecosystem protection can go hand in hand.
Mayor de Blasio deserves much praise for his commitment to get 100 percent of the city's electricity from renewable sources. He can make that commitment work even better for New Yorkers by ensuring the city gets significant amounts of that electricity from the power of offshore wind.