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With more Long Island waters up for grabs, New York selects second offshore wind farm

Matt Young

New York has picked the state’s second offshore wind project in the same week that federal regulators announced plans to auction more waters off the south shore of Long Island.

The state’s decision moves two offshore wind projects by developers Equinor and BP forward. They received provisional approval by the state in January 2021. Together the Empire Wind 2 and Beacon Wind projects are expected to generate 2,500 megawatts. That’s enough to power at least 400 homes in a year.

It would further the state’s renewable energy goal to develop 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035.

"We have a legacy of manufacturing. It's in our DNA. We know how to build steel, we know how to build with our hands and make projects that will sustain whatever Mother Nature throws our way," Governor Kathy Hochul said. "By advancing these significant offshore wind projects, we can maintain our cadence for developing projects that will spur much-needed green job creation and investment. No state has felt the impacts of climate change more than New York.”

The goal is to limit the state’s contribution to climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Research shows that climate change will make the Northeast hotter and wetter, and create more extreme weather events.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said advancements in renewable energy will give New York a head start.

“I think it was pretty disturbing for us to realize that six tornadoes touched down last September [on Long Island]. That was another first in history,” Esposito said. “So whether it's rising sea levels, tornadoes, touching down hurricanes, we're on the front lines, and we need to act.”

Equinor, a Norwegian-based energy company, is already developing an offshore wind project, Empire Wind, about 30 miles off the coast of the south shore of Long Island. The company has upcoming surveying work scheduled through March off the coast of Long Beach, Lido Beach, and in Reynolds Channel, as well as in select onshore areas. The surveys will “assess the seabed and potential landfalls for laying export cables that carry the renewable power from offshore wind turbines to the electrical grid,” a spokesperson said.

“The U.S. is a core market for Equinor’s offshore wind business and the U.S. East Coast is one of the most attractive growth markets for offshore wind in the world,” the company said in a statement. “We are currently in the process of evaluating potential new opportunities on the East Coast in line with our strategy of delivering profitable growth within renewables.”

The announcements follow the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's final sale notice to auction off more than 480,000 acres in the New York Blight. Those are waters between Long Island and New Jersey. The auction will be held on February 23. It will allow offshore wind developers to bid on six lease areas in the Bight.

The auction would further the federal government’s renewable energy goal of 30,000 megawatts from offshore wind by 2030. Hochul said “unlocking this opportunity” has been long sought after “the Trump Administration that did not see the vision as clearly” as the Biden administration.

"Hats off to Governor Hochul for taking a huge step towards lowering energy bills for New York households, creating thousands of good-paying jobs and advancing President Biden's goal of a robust offshore wind industry in America,” U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement Friday.

New York is expected to launch its third statewide solicitation for at least 2 gigawatts of new projects early this year. Hochul promised, in her recent State of the State address, an additional investment of $500 million in offshore wind infrastructure. She is required to submit her 2022 budget proposal next week.

“I have to say, with all the reference to Bob Dylan, ‘the answer my friend, is blowing in the wind.’ So that's what we're talking about here today,” Hochul said.

Building New York’s wind farms

The Empire Wind 2 and Beacon Wind projects are expected to become operational by 2028 once they obtain all required permits and approvals and complete construction.

Some of the wind turbine towers will be built in the Port of Albany and Brooklyn through a partnership with the state. Part of New York’s master plan for the offshore wind industry includes public and private funding of $644 million to develop port infrastructure in Albany. The plan also includes more than $287 million to build an offshore wind staging and assembly facility at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal for projects off Long Island’s South Shore. Electricity customers will ultimately pay for the spending through an additional charge of about $0.95 per month on their energy bills.

“They will initiate this new [master] plan to look at the next frontier of offshore wind development,” Julie Tighe, president of the New York League for Conservation Voters. “And ultimately, offshore wind will help us reduce our reliance on power plants, which are all too often polluting our environmental justice frontline communities.”

New York is also infusing a lot of cash into developing the workforce for the renewable energy industry. Officials announced the first round of competitive awards under the state’s $20 million Offshore Wind Training Institute, the largest public investment of its kind in the nation.

“We can and will overcome the challenge of climate change, and we'll do it one clean energy worker at a time," U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said. “It's that combination of the private sector, and the government partnership, and the partnership with labor that makes this all work. And so you've got the secret sauce, you've got all of the ingredients. We want to take this example, and bring it across the country.”

The training institute will certify and train 2,500 New Yorkers beginning this year to support both offshore and onshore renewable energy projects, through a partnership between the SUNY Farmingdale State College and Stony Brook University on Long Island.

The governor said this is an opportunity not only to develop more jobs but to also diversify the offshore wind workforce.

“We do this, yes, to protect the future, but also to give people, particularly who had been so hard hit by this pandemic, an opportunity to transition into jobs, and it's up to all of us to ensure that the training opportunities are there, and that's why we have an offshore wind training institute right on Long Island,” Hochul said. “And we're going to continue leaning hard into this, as well as opening the door for opportunities for women — I don't see as many women as I want to see in these industries — as well as people of color.”

The state’s first offshore wind project

South Fork Wind, by developers Eversource and Orsted, are in the permitting stage, with final approvals expected to be just days away. Construction is set to begin next month, according to Ken Bowes, the head of offshore wind permitting for Eversource.

Developers Orsted and Eversource have two of the five offshore wind farms that are moving through the evaluation and permitting process in New York.

They selected Melville-based Haugland Energy Group for the project’s first construction contract to build the 4-mile underground cable that connects to an electrical substation in eastern Long Island. The company also did the cable work for the Block Island Wind Farm, the first offshore wind project in the country off the coast of Rhode Island.

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.