Offshore wind power is finally on the rise in the United States, with the first U.S. offshore wind project slated to come online soon off Block Island, off the Rhode Island coast. Here in New York, the State has just released its Blueprint for the New York State Offshore Wind Power Master Plan. The Blueprint outlines New York’s smart strategy for scaling up offshore wind in New York as a key part of the State’s new “50 percent by 2030” renewables goal. And it opens the door for Long Island’s energy authority to vote as early as next week to approve a contract for a 90-megawatt offshore wind project 30 miles northeast of Montauk that would provide power to the South Fork region of Long Island. The Blueprint, prepared by NYSERDA, New York’s clean energy authority, with input from an array of other state agencies, is also the first step toward the development of a more comprehensive New York Offshore Wind Master Plan, which is expected by the end of 2017 and will involve extensive stakeholder outreach. It follows on the release last week of a National Offshore Wind Strategy by the federal government.
Here’s the strategy for scaling up offshore wind in New York laid out in the Blueprint. First, the report appears to give a green light from the State to moving forward with the initial development of offshore wind. The Blueprint says that “[e]arly offshore wind projects may move forward in parallel with the Master Plan,” and notes that early projects will “inform the Master Plan” and “provide valuable guidance for how to scale offshore wind responsibility.” First in line for that kind of development is the above-mentioned project to be located 30 miles east of Montauk. This project, which would be sited beyond the horizon and therefore invisible from land, would provide pollution-free power to 50,000 homes and help meet peak demand in the South Fork region. The electricity, delivered via an underwater cable, would also help the town of East Hampton meet its important goal of getting 100 percent of its electricity from clean sources by 2030. The Board of Directors of the Long Island Power Authority may meet as early as Wednesday to consider and vote on supporting this project.
The Blueprint next outlines the huge potential for offshore wind off New York and the many reasons to build out power from this resource. The report finds that New York has the potential for 39 gigawatts of clean offshore wind power off the Atlantic coast – that’s enough to power 15 million homes. To put that number in perspective, New York alone has the potential for about three and a half times the amount of offshore wind currently deployed in all of Europe.
The Blueprint identifies areas where offshore wind power projects can be sited and lays out a smart and comprehensive strategy for how New York intends to facilitate deployment in those areas: lowering the costs of financing by coupling acquisition of site leases with the creation of power purchase agreements from utilities; assessing and surveying potential sites for cultural and historical significance, for wildlife and other environmental factors, and for technical potential; and, engaging with a wide range of stakeholders, including environmental groups, the shipping industry, commercial and recreational fishermen, tribal organizations, unions, and others.
Of course, any proposed offshore wind power projects must undergo an extensive environmental review and permitting process that takes into consideration the concerns and input of stakeholders and weighs potential environmental impacts—things the State highlights, importantly, in this Blueprint. That’s as it should be. Offshore wind power offers many environmental benefits—carbon-free power prime among them—and it can be developed in ways that are consistent with protecting our vital marine ecosystems and wildlife.
With Rhode Island and Massachusetts moving forward with offshore wind, New York has the opportunity to join and even surpass these states as an offshore wind leader. All eyes will be on the Long Island Power Authority next week as it considers the Montauk offshore wind power project. In coalition with key stakeholders, including the New York Offshore Wind Alliance, NRDC looks forward to working with NYSERDA on the Master Plan, with the goal of building at least 5,000 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2030. With the support of Governor Cuomo and this new Blueprint from NYSERDA, New York can make offshore wind – together with energy efficiency, land-based wind and solar power – a key component of the State’s impressive clean energy leadership.
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