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Council considers New York City’s next offshore wind farm proposal

The City Council’s environmental protection committee heard testimony Tuesday about plans to build even more wind farms off the coast of New York City to meet the state’s clean energy goals.

Officials from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority described the project’s environmental benefits, as well as its economic potential. Off-shore wind farms would create hundreds of new jobs, they said.

The proposal had the backing of committee chair Costa Constantinides.

“There will be substantial environmental benefits resulting from employing wind technology in New York City, where air quality has a huge impact on respiratory and cardio-pulminary disease,” Constantinides said. “There is simply no way to achieve our aims of good environmental quality and abundant energy for our lifestyle if we continue fossil fuel usage.”

New York state has committed to producing 9,000 megawatts of energy from offshore wind farms, enough to power six million homes by 2035, in order to meet the goals of the state’s Climate Leadership Community Protection Act.

Three offshore wind farms are currently in the works near New York City, including one off the coast of the Rockaways. The wind farm, the Empire Wind Project, and another project off the southeastern portion of Long Island, are expected to generate enough energy to power nearly 1 million homes, Constantinides said.

The NYSERDA plan discussed Tuesday would put the state on a path to meet the CLCPA goal with an additional 2,400 megawatt-project. The wind farm would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 5 million tons each year, the equivalent of taking 1 million cars off the road, according to the department’s estimates.

Meet the goals outlined by the Climate Mobilization Act will depend on developing diverse energy sources “from rooftop solar to utility scale renewables, to energy storage,” said Susanne DesRoches, the deputy director of Infrastructure and Energy at the NYC Office of Resiliency and Office of Sustainability.

“We are committed to an energy transition that will increase resilience to climate change while maintaining energy affordability for all New Yorkers,” DesRoches said. “Offshore wind has an important role to play.”

The Climate Mobilization Act compels the city to make 70 percent of energy carbon-free by 2030. Wind farms alone will not be enough to achieve the goal, she said.

The city will have to create one gigawatt of energy from solar panels on buildings, three gigawatts from offshore wind farms and one gigawatt from hydropower as well as creating 500 megawatts of storage, DesRoches said.

“In order for the city to clean its grid, we need all available resources – there is no silver bullet,” she added.

Environmental advocates across the city offered their own testimony in support of increasing New York’s clean energy portfolio, as long as they also serve the low-income communities of color hardest hit by air pollution.

“Offshore wind development must be approached in a comprehensive manner with frontline community leadership at the forefront of priorities decision making and implementation,” said Summer Sandoval, energy democracy coordinator for the organization UPROSE.

The few participants who testified in opposition criticized the limited discussion of long-term effectiveness, environmental impacts and the disruption to fishing grounds.

Turbines, which generate the energy, disrupt the radars of commercial fishers, said Bonnie Brady, who spoke on behalf of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association.

“You cannot eat energy,” Brady said. “You can, however, destroy your food security.”