Update: The Long Island Power Authority board meeting to consider an offshore wind proposal discussed in this blog has been postponed for several weeks. I plan to blog again once the board meeting takes place.
Offshore wind power in New York and the U.S. overall received a major boost yesterday when Governor Cuomo announced his support for the development of a 90-megawatt offshore wind power project, to be sited 30 miles east of Montauk, that would provide power to the South Fork region of Long Island. The Board of Directors of LIPA, Long Island’s public power authority, is considering the approval of a contract for the project in response to a Request for Proposals that it issued last year for additional power to serve the South Fork community. The South Fork offshore wind project would power 50,000 homes and help meet peak demand in the South Fork area. The electricity generated offshore would be delivered directly to the town of East Hampton via an underwater cable and will help the town meet its goal of getting 100 percent of its electricity from clean sources by 2030. LIPA’s Board of Directors is expected to meet Wednesday to consider and vote on supporting this project.
If built, this project would be only the second offshore wind power project in American waters, even though Europe already has more than 11 gigawatts of offshore wind, with more coming online each month. There is huge potential to scale up clean offshore wind in New York to serve the population centers of New York City and Long Island. As LIPA’s CEO Thomas Falcone told The Associated Press, the South Fork project “is 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 and it’s not the last.”
Indeed, momentum has already been building for offshore wind in both New York and the U.S. Already, Deepwater Wind, the developer of this proposed project, has begun construction on the first U.S. offshore wind project, a 30-megawatt demonstration project near Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island. That project should be completed by the end of the year. And just this spring, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced plans to hold an auction for leasing rights to another New York offshore wind power area, south of Long Island, eleven miles off of Long Beach. In another innovative move, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority plans to oversee offshore wind development for this site.
The South Fork offshore wind project has several interesting and unique aspects. Part of the beauty of the project is that, because it would be located 30 miles from land, it will be “beyond the horizon” and therefore invisible from shore, avoiding any possible complaints about visual impacts. Also, because Deepwater Wind already owns the lease for the offshore wind area where the project would be built, it could soon have the essentials for offshore wind development: a site, a lease, and a long-term contract, vastly increasing the likelihood that this project will be built. This is the gold standard for offshore wind development. Of course, importantly, the company will still need to go through the required environmental reviews and secure permits for the project from both the state and the federal government. That process gives the public plenty of opportunities for input and comment and will help to ensure that appropriate environmental- and ecosystem-protection measures are put in place.
Deepwater Wind has shown its commitment to these issues by working with NRDC, the National Wildlife Foundation, the Conservation Law Foundation, and other environmental organizations in developing plans to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, which migrate up and down the East Coast. At its Block Island offshore wind project, the company has successfully put these protective measures in place. We intend to work with Deepwater to replicate similar ecosystem-protection measures for the South Fork project, if it moves forward.
Governor Cuomo’s support of this project is another in a series of actions that demonstrates just what bold leadership on climate and clean energy looks like. Under his direction, the state intends to double its clean electricity resources and get 50 percent of New York’s electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar power by 2030. The final design for this “50 by ‘30” program is expected to be approved by the state’s Public Service Commission on August 1st.
Today’s announcement that Governor Cuomo supports the development of the South Fork offshore wind project is significant and welcome news. To meet New York’s “50 by ‘30” renewables target, we’ll need this offshore wind project to be the first of many, even as we move forward with energy efficiency, and land-based wind and solar as well, on the path to the clean energy future.