Offshore Wind Energy in New York…Coming Soon!

Over 100 people gathered on Long Island this week for an update on “Offshore Wind in 2012” at a conference National Wildlife Federation cosponsored with several local groups including Renewable Energy Long Island, Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment, Alliance for Clean Energy New York, and our state affiliate Environmental Advocates of New York. The room was packed and the interest in this exciting new clean energy source was palpable!

Conference speakers, L to R: Carol Murphy, Pete Grannis, Adrienne Esposito, Gordian Raacke, Frank Murray, Kevin Law, & Catherine Bowes (photo: Beth Fiteni)
Long Island Association hosted the conference at their Melville offices. Kevin Law, President & CEO of LIA told the group he has always believed that “our energy challenges are really economic opportunities.”

The day started with opening remarks from Pete Grannis of New York State Comptroller’s Office, who highlighted the impact of climate change on the state’s budget and economy: “Climate change represents the greatest market failure we have ever seen.”

Throughout the morning, environmental and public health advocacy groups described offshore wind as a clean alternative to the devastating impacts our reliance on fossil fuels has on current and future generations of people and wildlife.  New York’s environmental community is united in support of offshore wind energy, and recently joined over 200 national, state, and local organizations in sending a letter to President Obama calling for bold action to advance this critical new clean energy source for America.

Gordian Raacke, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Long Island: “Switching from polluting energy sources to offshore wind power will benefit all of us. It means cleaner air, a healthier environment, and keeping our energy dollars in the local economy rather than paying for imported fuel to run Long Island’s power plants.”

Representatives from the offshore wind industry then inspired the group with examples of how offshore wind energy development has revitalized port communities in Europe, creating thousands of jobs and providing a reliable cost-effective source of electricity.  Presentations showed how current advancements in offshore wind technology are driving down costs, helping reduce conflicts with other ocean uses, and expanding local economic development opportunities. Launching a robust offshore wind industry here in America will expand high-quality career opportunities in technology innovation, manufacturing, engineering, and project operations.    

Karsten Moeller from Siemens Energy, one of the leading global suppliers of offshore wind turbines, confirmed that “Offshore wind is a real, big industry in Europe. Innovation is driving down the cost and increasing the performance of this job-creating technology.”

Additionally, speakers discussed how tapping our offshore wind energy resource will benefit New York’s electricity grid overall by supplying much needed megawatts during peak demand times without increasing local pollution. Offshore wind also helps bring down the overall cost of energy across the rate base, through a process known as price suppression where renewable energy effectively outcompetes more expensive dirty power (because the fuel cost is $0) in the hourly auctions managed by the electricity grid operator.

Carol Murphy, Executive Director of Alliance for Clean Energy New York spoke in detail about this point: “According to the New York Independent System Operator, for every 1,000 MW of wind on the system, consumers save $300 million in wholesale energy costs.” 

Bill Moore, President & CEO of Deepwater Wind described additional benefits for NY’s electric grid that will result from tapping offshore wind energy: “One of the many advantages of offshore wind energy is that its highest levels of production correspond with periods of peak electricity demand, such as summer afternoons and heat waves.” Deepwater Wind recently released data showing how much clean electricity their proposed offshore wind project would have produced during New York’s recent heat wave.

Over 100 people gathered in Melville to hear an update on New York’s progress in building offshore wind energy. (photo: Tara Bono)
State officials then provided an update on the planning process currently underway by New York’s Department of State to assess potential wind energy development sites off New York’s shores, as well as the joint state-federal process to review specific project proposals such as the collaborative effort by New York Power Authority, Long Island Power Authority, and ConEdison to generate 700 MW of offshore wind energy about 13 miles south of the Rockaways. Additionally, Deepwater Wind has applied to sell power to Long Island from its proposed 1 GW project in Rhode Island Sound, east of Montauk. Both of these projects have potential to provide clean energy to New York in the next few years, following a comprehensive environmental review process.

Frank Murray, President & CEO of New York State Energy Development Authority (NYSERDA) mentioned NYSERDA’s efforts to analyze offshore wind energy for New York and will soon be releasing a detailed report on the opportunity: “I am a true believer in offshore wind energy. I believe it is possible, inevitable, and a wise investment.”

Todd Stebbins, Director of Environmental Affairs for Long Island Power Authority, described the collaborative project proposal with NYPA and ConEd and shared thoughts on integrating offshore wind energy into LIPA’s portfolio: “Offshore wind energy will displace fossil fuel use, benefitting the environment especially in areas that are in non-attainment [of air quality standards]. There are challenges here, but they are not insurmountable.”

Perhaps the most important quote of the day came from an engaged member of the audience, who asked the panelists “What can we do to just get things moving to make sure these projects get built and come online?!?”

Offshore wind energy projects – like this one in Copenhagen – have been producing energy and jobs overseas for over 2 decades. (photo: ReLI)
There are several answers to this key question. First and foremost, Governor Cuomo and New York’s leaders must prioritize offshore wind energy as a key component of the strategy to meet the state’s climate and clean energy goals. Secondly, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (responsible for offshore wind energy leasing in federal waters) must move the permitting process forward in an efficient and environmentally responsible manner. Offshore wind energy can and must be developed without placing coastal and marine wildlife at risk. Click here to voice support for swift action to advance wildlife-friendly offshore wind energy.  

Critical discussions are also underway on Capitol Hill regarding energy tax incentives needed to support the development of this new industry here in America.  National Wildlife Federation strongly supports extending the Investment Tax Credit for offshore wind energy in order to help level the playing field for this new clean energy technology that must compete with a mature fossil fuel industry that still receives billions in taxpayer subsidies.

U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, from NY’s 1st District (Long Island’s East End) highlighted this in his remarks at the conference: “There are an alarming number of colleagues [in the House of Representatives] in full blown denial of the crisis we face with climate change, yet the science is overwhelmingly clear. It is imperative that we renew tax credits for clean energy in order to reduce our reliance on oil and confront the dangers of climate change.”

At the end of the day, key questions about the feasibility and cost of offshore wind energy were answered and excitement about this new clean energy source continued to grow among the conference’s attendees. Looking forward, leadership from both state and federal government is critical in order for New York to finally take advantage of this golden energy opportunity.

Press coverage of the conference included articles in Newsday and the Long Island Business News, as well as local TV coverage.