New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo led the cheer squad last month when the Interior Department announced it would begin allowing offshore wind turbines to be built in the shallow waters between New Jersey and Long Island. Mr. Cuomo had recently announced a $6 billion plan to build 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030, with the costs passed on to bill payers. But though Mr. Cuomo portrays himself as a champion of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions, his simultaneous opposition to a New York City-area nuclear plant exposes his wind plan as a mere play for progressive prestige.
Mr. Cuomo isn’t the only Northeastern governor with windy ambitions. Massachusetts’ Charlie Baker signed a bill in 2016 committing his state to develop 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2027, and New Jersey’s Phil Murphy decreed in January that the Garden State would aim for 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2030.
But Mr. Cuomo is working the hardest of all to maximize his climate-change credentials. Sitting next to former Vice President Al Gore in 2015, he signed a document committing New York to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions 80% before 2050.
For all his bluster, however, Mr. Cuomo made it clear in January 2017 that his true priority is pleasing environmentalists, not cutting emissions. That was when he gleefully announced that the nuclear-powered Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, N.Y., which provides abundant low-cost electricity while producing zero carbon-dioxide emissions, would close by 2021.
Activists like to urge climate-change skeptics to “do the math” on emissions and temperatures – so let’s start by looking at Indian Point’s output. The twin-reactor 2,069-megawatt plant, which sits on the banks of the Hudson River a few dozen miles north of Times Square, produces about 16,600 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year. That’s about a quarter of New York City’s consumption.
Given the troubled history of offshore wind projects like Massachusetts’ ill-fated Cape Wind, it is far from certain that Mr. Cuomo will succeed in building the full 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind capacity proposed in his outline. But even if he does, New York’s emissions are still likely to rise, because the proposed offshore capacity won’t come close to replacing the energy generated by Indian Point.
Comparing Mr. Cuomo’s wind proposal with a pending offshore project allows us to estimate the amount of power it will generate. The proposed South Fork wind project is a 90-megawatt facility scheduled to be built near the eastern end of Long Island. That project – which is opposed by local fisherman – is expected to produce 370 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year. In other words, each megawatt of capacity at South Fork will annually produce about 4.1 gigawatt-hours. If the same ratio holds for Mr. Cuomo’s plan, its 2,400 megawatts of capacity will produce about 9,840 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year. That’s only about 60% of the juice New Yorkers now get from Indian Point.
This simple arithmetic shows that while Mr. Cuomo and his green allies are touting offshore wind, the premature closure of Indian Point will leave New York with a big gap in its electricity sources. What will fill the hole? The short answer, as was revealed by the New York Independent System Operator last December, is natural gas.
If Indian Point closes as scheduled, the NYISO expects its output will be replaced by electricity from three gas-fired plants now under construction, including the 678-megawatt CPV Valley Energy Center in Wawayanda, N.Y., the 1,020-megawatt Cricket Valley Energy Center in Dover, N.Y., and a 120-megawatt addition to the Bayonne Energy Center in New Jersey.
The irony here is colossal. Mr. Cuomo, who banned hydraulic fracturing despite the economic boon it has created in neighboring Pennsylvania, and who has repeatedly blocked construction of pipelines, is making New York even more dependent on natural gas, which will increase its carbon emissions. At the same time, he has mandated offshore wind projects that will force New Yorkers to pay more for their electricity, even though the state already has some of the nation’s highest electricity prices.
That’s the kind of green record a high-profile Democrat might use to run for the White House – which appears to be Mr. Cuomo’s only real priority.
Mr. Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the producer of the forthcoming documentary “Juice: How Electricity Explains the World.”