New York State will emphasize its position that windfarms off the Hamptons are a nonstarter as federal regulators begin the public process of auctioning off lease rights to waters off the South Shore.
Doreen Harris, the newly named president and chief executive of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, in an interview Thursday, said the state next week will make a detailed case for instead focusing on two other wind areas to the west. Harris had previously been acting chief executive of NYSERDA.
The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, in a highly anticipated announcement last month, released a map of proposed new wind-energy areas off New York and New Jersey in a body of water known as the New York Bight.
Harris said New York will show that proposed areas to the west, in sections known as Hudson North and Hudson South, can provide “more than enough” wind-energy capacity to meet the region’s need – for 7,500 to 8,000 megawatts – without having to develop the off-Hamptons areas, named Fairways North and Fairways South. Public officials including Southampton Supervisor Jay Schniederman and fishing groups oppose windfarms in the Fairways areas, which at 15 miles from shore would be visible from beaches and some of the nation’s most expensive houses.
“We consider them [both Fairways areas] to be sub-optimal,” said Harris. “In scale and cost, and from a conflict perspective, they are certainly not situated optimally from the perspective of ocean uses.”
She added, “Our strong recommendation to BOEM is they focus on Hudson North and South.”
Public comment invited
Offshore wind development “poses direct conflicts with fishing,” fishing industry representatives in the group Responsible Offshore Development Association wrote in a recent letter to BOEM. They argued the permitting process “provides no meaningful opportunity to include the needs of sustainable seafood harvesting and production” in the climate-change plans.
BOEM is holding two online task-force meetings about the New York areas next week, and is seeking public comment.
Despite those concerns, Harris said New York was thrilled with the progress on ocean leasing and plan progress seen from the federal government since the Biden Administration took over. New York had viewed the stalled leasing in New York as resulting in a deficit of 6,000 megawatts of potential wind power. The state has already awarded just under 4,200 megawatts of wind to partnerships including Equinor-BP and Orsted-Eversource. LIPA has a separate project at 130 megawatts, also by Orsted/Eversource. The projects will install turbines over 800 feet tall in waters off central Long Island and the Massachusetts-Rhode Island coast.
Spoiling the view?
Turbines in the Fairways areas off the Hamptons would be as near as 15 miles to 20 miles from shore, and visible on clear days. “Of course it’s a factor,” Harris said of the visibility of the turbines from shore in the state’s favoring other wind-energy areas.
The state’s goal of 9,000 megawatts would be enough to power more than 6 million homes.
Harris said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s recent budget announcement that includes new buy-American provisions for green energy projects over 5 megawatts and prevailing wage guarantees for utility-scale green energy will give another boost to a green economy already being tuned up to benefit from manufacturing of wind turbine towers, foundations and other components in New York. Much of that activity is expected to take place in the Albany region, where Equinor has pledged to make turbine foundations. Deep-water ports around New York City could be hubs for staging and some assembly. Long Island, lacking deep ports, is expected to house operations and maintenance hubs.
LI manufacturing role
For Long Island, the prospect of making major components of wind-farms appears less clear. Harris said she sees a “massive opportunity” for Long Island businesses to make components for wind-farm parts, if not the major parts themselves.
“It’s important to note that the offshore wind supply chain is incredibly diverse and deep,” she said. “It’s not just the turbines themselves, but deeper in the supply chain is well-suited for Long Island manufacturers.” She mentioned sub-assemblies, and electrical and hydraulic supply components as likely to be built on Long Island.
Long Island is already home to proposed training hubs, as well as operations and maintenance hubs for projects.
There’s a combined $45 million between private investment and the state to train a new offshore wind workforce. NYSERDA recently accepted bids for $3 million in training for manufacturing jobs for wind-farm components, part of $20 million the state has committed to training. Stony Brook University and Farmingdale State College will also benefit from some of that funding, Harris said. Orstead/Eversource has committed $10 million for workforce training at Suffolk Community College. And Equinor has committed another $5 million for workforce development in the local community.
Precisely when those centers will be churning out the new green workforce is another matter. The state and the industry are “really looking to phase in training at the right places and the right time,” Harris said. Operations and maintenance training for Empire Wind isn’t necessarily needed today, because the project isn’t scheduled to be operational until 2024. The more immediate need is to focus on manufacturing skills, including offering opportunities to disadvantaged communities, she said.
In his recent speech after passage of the state budget, Cuomo mentioned the massive influx of new wind energy coming to the grid and the need for an energy “superhighway to get that green energy from Upstate, from Long Island, from the ocean to the markets that need it.”
LIPA has already proposed more than $1.5 billion in upgrades for Long Island to help facilitate that plan, and wants the cost to be spread around statewide so that Long Islanders alone aren’t stuck with the bill.
Harris wouldn’t discuss those cost implications or offer a position on how the bill would be paid, referring questions to the Department of Public Service.
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