“It was a big day! Long Island is making clean energy history for the island, for the State of New York and for the country,” exclaimed Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, about the approval on January 25 by the Long Island Power Authority of what is to be the biggest offshore wind farm in the United States. Fifteen wind turbines to be erected by Deepwater Wind are to go up 30 miles southeast of Montauk.
And in equally big renewable energy news, just two weeks earlier Governor Andrew Cuomo declared in a regional State of the State address for Long Island that the aim for the state is to “reach 100 percent renewable [energy] because that’s what a sustainable New York is really all about.”
A major part of that power will come from offshore wind, he said in the presentation January 10 at Farmingdale State University. “We want to get 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030.” (That’s three times the electricity that the Shoreham nuclear plant would have provided. It was stopped from going into commercial operation by grassroots and governmental opposition on Long Island based on health and safety concerns, and its nuclear innards removed.)
Last year, the governor along with New York State agencies developed a plan to have renewable energy sources provide 50% of electrical energy used in New York by 2030, a so-called “50-by-30” initiative. The 100% goal signifies a major change.
Mr. Raacke, who was at both the governor’s State of the State address and the LIPA meeting where the LIPA board voted unanimously for the 15 wind turbines 30 miles off Montauk, called the governor’s call for a 100% goal “remarkable.” He noted that the town board of East Hampton, where Renewable Energy Long Island has its office, has committed the town to a 100% renewable energy goal. For this to be a state goal, too, said Mr. Raacke “is great.”
On the offshore wind project the LIPA board would subsequently vote on, Mr. Cuomo in his address said: “They will not be visible from the beach. They will be 30 miles southeast of Montauk. Not even Superman standing on Montauk Point could see these wind farms. But the upside is tremendous. It will be the largest offshore wind project in our nation’s history… It’s jobs, it’s clean energy and it’s inexpensive energy which then drives the economy.”
A problem for years in the development of offshore wind farms in the United States—stopping proposed projects between Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts and off Jones Beach on Long Island—was closeness of the turbines to the coast. Residents complained of that disturbing the view.
But Deepwater Wind, based in Rhode Island, has made technological breakthroughs allowing wind turbines to go up way out to sea, beyond the horizon.
In December, five Deepwater Wind turbines began spinning 12 miles east of Montauk becoming the country’s first offshore wind farm.
Deepwater Wind has even bigger offshore wind projects planned including one more east of Long Island and a second west of Long Island off the New Jersey coast. Central Long Island is also slated to have an offshore wind farm. Solteil Wind, a Norwegian company, won a $42 million federal lease last month to put up 194 wind turbines in the Atlantic well off Jones Beach.
The 15-turbine offshore wind farm approved in a 9-to-0 vote by the LIPA board has made national news—quite a distinction for Long Island. “Nation’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm Will Be Built Off Long Island” was the headline in the New York Times. Offshore wind has “struggled to take off in the United States, but the Long Island project signals that the long-awaited promise of a new, low-carbon source of electricity is poised to become part of the national energy mix,” said the article.
Jeffrey Grybowski, CEO of Deepwater Wind, following the LIPA action, described it as “a big day for clean energy in New York and our nation. “ He praised Governor Cuomo for setting “a bold vision for a clean energy future” and said “this project is a significant step toward making that a reality.” Added Mr. Grybowski: “There is a huge clean energy resource blowing off of our coastline just over the horizon, and it is time to tap into this unlimited resource to power our communities.”
Many Long Island environmentalists, area public officials and union members—who are looking at the construction jobs that offshore wind will provide—were at the LIPA meeting and celebrated after the vote.
There is still resistance to offshore wind farms even though they would be far out to sea. Fishing interests are concerned. Mr. Raacke, who has visited wind farms in Europe—where there are many—said: “Offshore wind farms can co-exist with commercial fishing. This is not a new issue. It has been resolved in Europe. It can be resolved here.”