State presents wind farm plans in Long Beach

Scott Brinton for Long Island Herald

Originally published in Long Island Herald

Officials from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority came to Long Beach City Hall on Sept. 19 to present the state’s plans to bring 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind power to New York by 2035 — roughly enough to meet one-third of the state’s current power needs. Central to those plans is an 816-megawatt wind farm that is expected to come online in 2024 just south of Jones Beach.

The two-hour session was the fourth of six open houses that NYSERDA is presenting on Long Island and in New York City.

Shaped like a pizza slice, with its point aimed at New York Harbor, the Empire Wind project will span nearly 80,000 acres in the Atlantic Ocean, with its closest point 14 miles south of Jones Inlet and its farthest point 30 miles south of Fire Island.

Norway-based Equinor is constructing the project. Julia Bovey, director of external affairs for Equinor Wind US, told the audience of about 50 that real-time monitoring of the project would ensure that the wind farm would not disturb commercial fishing grounds or the annual migratory patterns of whales.

The project was one of two to win state approval in July. In total, the two wind farms will bring $3.2 billion in economic activity to New York state, and create 1,600 jobs.

The other wind farm is a joint venture between Danish power provider Ørsted and New England-based Eversource. The Sunrise Wind project, a slightly larger farm 30 miles off Montauk Point, is also expected to come online in 2024.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed agreements for the two projects on July 18. Former Vice President Al Gore, a longtime proponent of renewable energy to help mitigate the effects of the climate crisis, sat by his side. The contracts represent the largest offshore agreement in U.S. history.

Adrienne Downey, NYSERDA’s principal engineer for offshore wind, said that the two wind farms combined would generate nearly 1,700 megawatts of power when complete. “The projects are enormous,” she said.

Doreen Harris, NYSERDA’s vice president of large-scale renewables, described New York’s goal to bring 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind online in the next 15 years as ambitious. It is, she said, “by far the largest goal in the nation.”

Offshore wind, according to Cuomo, is a key component of New York’s strategy to eliminate carbon-based electricity production by 2040 and reduce the state’s overall carbon emissions from all sources by 85 percent by 2050.

Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is a primary driver of climate change, in which the Earth is steadily heating to unsustainable levels, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas produces the greatest amounts of carbon. Unless humans dramatically reduce their carbon output, scientists warn, global warming will bring significantly stronger hurricanes, which could strike Long Island.

Renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal are carbon-neutral because they produce no carbon dioxide during energy production.

Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act to phase out carbon producers, including oil and natural gas heaters and gasoline-powered vehicles, in June. State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach, sponsored the measure in the Senate, and he attended last Thursday’s NYSERDA session.

Kaminsky called the Atlantic Ocean “the Saudi Arabia of wind,” and of offshore wind, he said, “We’re really on the ground floor of a major development.”

Jerry Rivers, an environmental scientist from Roosevelt, said that offshore wind “is very important for creating green jobs, especially for the young people. The people of Long Island support offshore wind to get off fossil fuels.”

David Pollicino, of Long Beach, manager of energy services at Woodbury-based Cameron Engineering, said he attended the forum to show his company’s support for offshore wind. “We’re trying to support our ecosystem in every way we can,” he said.