Offshore wind power in Long Island’s future

A source of renewable energy off the shore of Long Island is now, more than ever, a real possibility. The project consists of building a wind power facility located in the Atlantic Ocean, thirteen miles away from the Rockaway Peninsula. The objective is to help New York State reach its clean and renewable energy goals. These goals include a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, with 50 percent of energy generation from renewable energy sources and a 600 trillion Btu increase in statewide energy efficiency.

“We should be looking towards renewable sources of energy to fulfill our needs,” said New York State Assembly Member Todd Kamisnky.

The Long Island Offshore Wind Project is designed to generate 350 megawatts (MW) with the possibility to expand to 700 MW. This wind facility operating at half its capacity would generate enough energy for about 112,000 homes.

According to estimates from the New York Public Service Commission every megawatt-hour of displaced fossil power, is equivalent to 900 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2). Therefore, this facility would displace enough CO2 annually to be equivalent to removing 120,000 cars from local roads. The implementation of renewable resources is the key to the success in the New York State Master Energy Plan and any potential federal renewable energy goals.

The project took a big step forward on November 12 when Governor Andrew M. Cuomo rejected a proposal to build a port for liquefied natural gas, also known as Port Ambrose, that was going after the same location assigned to the wind farm. “The project unfortunately was also identified for the same area as an offshore wind farm and offshore wind is clean, safe and domestically produced energy that we need to be using,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

In the last few years the interest in reducing the use of fossil fuels for electricity production has grown. In Long Island’s case, there is a very significant amount of  energy that could be obtained through offshore wind. The advantage that this energy has over natural gas, is that this energy is domestic, clean and renewable.

Cuomo, as well as other members of the community, is worried about the security issues that came along with the gas import facility. “You don’t want to put a terrorist target in the port of New York or in the shipping lanes, there is just no reason to do it,” said Bruce Ferguson, founder of Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy. Ferguson explained that even as a business decision it didn’t make sense.

“There are two similar ports in Boston Harbor, neither of them have imported gas for years, because there is no market for imported gas in the United States,” said Ferguson.

Although the rejection of Port Ambrose meant a big deal for the aspirations of the wind farm, there is still a lot to accomplish. Especially when such ambitious projects are being developed, there are going to appear many obstacles along the way.

“We have been in touch with the fishermen to obtain what their concerns could be. We know there is good fishing and scallop fishing in the area, so we are working to make sure that they have been accounted for, before we go forward. That’s our main concern right now,” said Tracey Moriarty, a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management spokesperson. One thing is certain, this is something that will not happen overnight. The approval itself is going to take several months.

“The status of the project is that the Bureau Ocean Energy Management is going to be coming out with its next visualization study sometime this month, so we are waiting on that,” said Steve Gosset, a New York Power Authority spokesperson.

There is a precedent of a failed wind farm project in recent years. On August 23, 2007, The Long Island Power Authority terminated a project, which consisted of the installation of 40 wind turbines off the coast of Jones Beach. The main reasons that took this proposal to the ground were the strong opposition from local groups due to its close proximity to land and the rising cost of the technology at the time.

Even though history is against The Long Island Offshore Wind Project, this time the future looks more promising. The community seems more receptive to the idea and is more aware of the benefits that this kind of facility would bring. Local politicians have also expressed their support towards the proposal. This time it looks like everything is aligned for this project to succeed. If everything goes as planned, and there are no other major difficulties along the way, the facility could be running by the end of 2017.