WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Over the years the uptake and roll out of wind power as a renewable energy source across America has been slow, but advocates hope that this ambitious new wind farm project will change all that.
I always thought that in America it was Chicago, not New York, that was famous for being the windy city – but it looks like all that is about to change, with the new announcement that America’s largest wind farm is going to be built off of the coast of New York starting in 2020 with a go live date of 2022.
Last week, and in response to the growing energy demands from the Hamptons, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) granted approval for the nation’s largest project to date, which will occupy the stretch of coastline between the eastern tip of Long Island and Martha’s Vineyard.
The farm, which will cover 250 square miles and which will eventually have 200 turbines, each capable of powering 50,000 average homes, is the first of several planned by the developer Deepwater Wind.
“It is the largest project to date, but it will not be the last project,” said Thomas Falcone, LIPA’s CEO.
Despite it’s growing popularity elsewhere in the world it’s fair to say that wind power has struggled to take off in the US. But now, hopefully, and despite the new Trump administration’s apparently pro-fossil fuels bias, it’s hoped that this project could signal a new dawn for the technology which is lagging way behind solar, an energy source that is now the cheapest form of energy in over 58 countries, as an alternative renewable energy source.
The project was given the thumbs up by New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo’s who wants to see over 50 percent of the state’s power coming from renewable sources by 2030, and that goal includes 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind – enough to power 1.25 million homes. It is the largest commitment to offshore wind in the country and is part of the state’s way of showing the nascent industry it is serious about developing the resource. And over the coming decades who knows, we might see an East Coast – West Coast renewable energy face off as California spins up its own renewable energy plans with “The Pipe.”
“This project will not only provide a new, reliable source of clean energy but will also create high-paying jobs, continue our efforts to combat climate change and help preserve our environment,” said Cuomo, two weeks after he publicly called for the power authority to approve the proposal.
Initially it was forecast that the project was going to cost over $1 Billion but that figure has now been revised down to $740 Million, and according to Deepwater Wind’s CEO it’s going to be financed using loans and equity investments, as well as tax credits worth 25 percent of the development’s cost which will be phased out after 2019.
Each turbine is a monster – standing at over 600 feet tall, taller than the US’s latest $4.4 Billion destroyer the DGD-1000 Zumwalt is long, and they’ll each be connected to a substation in East Hampton by a 50 mile undersea cable, and as for the Hamptons, the town has a goal of its own – to meet all of its electric demand with renewable energy by 2020, a target that Vegas met late last year.
While other offshore wind projects, notably the one off Cape Cod, have encountered opposition because of their effect on ocean views Deepwater Wind has said the turbines supplying East Hampton won’t be visible from Montauk, on the tip of Long Island, and would barely be visible from Martha’s Vineyard, 15 miles away.
The approval comes six weeks after the nation’s only other functioning offshore wind power farm, another Deepwater Wind project in Rhode Island state waters off Block Island, began serving customers on the grid.
Big multinational developers like Statoil and Dong Energy are also investing in the business, snapping up leases for ocean parcels with the aim of competing for utility contracts in Maryland, Massachusetts and New York. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is putting together an offshore wind master plan to guide development, including a swathe south of the Rockaways.
All of the projects have faced some opposition, some of it from commercial fisheries concerned that the turbines, attached to the seafloor, will disrupt their catches and consumers worried about higher electricity prices but LIPA, which plans to buy all of the Long Island farm’s output over 20 years, says the cost will net out at about the same as its other renewable energy projects, at about 16 cents a kilowatt-hour. Its average electricity price is 7.5 cents a kilowatt-hour, so the project is expected to add $1.19 a month to the average customer bill.
“We think that thousands of megawatts are going to be built off the coast of the United States in the coming decades,” Mr. Grybowski said, “it’s an enormous clean energy resource. It’s easy for us to tap into it, but we need projects to get from essentially one project to these thousands of megawatts.”