The Biden administration on Monday released details of a multipronged effort to jump-start the nation’s offshore wind industry, including plans to auction off long-anticipated wind-energy areas off Long Island that encompass waters off the Hamptons.
In the past, East End and state officials, and even wind-energy supporters had expressed reservations about developing wind farms off the Hamptons, chiefly because of concerns about their visibility and potential fishing conflicts.
The announcement is part of a larger initiative by the administration to unlock barriers to the wind industry in the United States after years of delays under the Trump administration. The Biden plan also includes the start of an environmental review of a planned wind farm off New Jersey called Ocean Wind that is being developed by Denmark-based Orsted along with a PSEG energy subsidiary, which has a 25% stake.
Biden’s plan sets a target for 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy, enough to power tens of million of homes, by 2030, and the creation of 80,000 jobs.
A map of the new wind-energy areas set for ocean grounds between New York and New Jersey called the New York Bight includes sections of waterway referred to as Fairways North, directly south of the Shinnecock Inlet and some of the most expensive homes in the Hamptons, and another called Fairways South, directly south of the Great South Bay. It also includes areas farther out to sea, and along the New Jersey coast.
"That area is too close to shore in my opinion and should not be considered," said Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman of the proposed areas off the Hamptons. "It appears to be 15 miles out in the ocean. That would [make it] very easy to see the large turbines. These utilities need to be located farther offshore to eliminate the visual impacts from public beaches," Schneiderman said.
Rep. Kathleen Rice, an advocate of the new wind-energy areas, said through a spokesman she supports the sites off the Hamptons. "Constructing new projects will directly benefit us today and help preserve our environment for generations to come," she said.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, in a statement, thanked the Biden administration for "for immediately removing the barriers we faced the past four years with the federal government," and specifically for prioritizing the New York wind-areas which he said "will allow us to continue this legacy for years to come."
Other wind proponents and detractors reacted to the news with varying levels of hope and dismay.
"I’m sick to my stomach," said Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, a Montauk-based commercial fishermen’s group. "These are grounds that guys fish, that’s how they feed their families, and the nation," she said, adding she was particularly dismayed the Biden announcement didn’t include programs to compensate fishermen for the loss of fishing grounds.
The Biden plan calls for more than $1 million in grant funding to "improve understanding of offshore renewable energy for the benefit of a diversity of stakeholders, including fishing and coastal communities."
Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, an East Hampton green-energy proponent who strongly supports wind energy but has argued against putting them off shore of the Hamptons, applauded the broader announcement and addition of new areas off Long Island, calling it a "good day for renewable energy."
"What they’ve done here is a compromise," Raacke said, noting that the sites chosen leave a fairly large tract through the wind areas for a shipping lane. "It’s far off the coast and it shouldn’t be a big problem. …It’s all in the name of coexisting with competing uses."
The administration, after public input and other steps, could set an auction for those wind-energy areas late this year or early next. Equinor, the Norwegian wind-energy developer, already has won contracts from the state to develop two other wind farms in the New York Bight, from Long Beach to Robert Moses State Park, about 15 miles or more from shore.
In addition to the new New York lease areas, the Biden plan contemplates other new lease areas and to complete reviews of at least 16 construction and operation plans for other wind-farm plans by 2025. It also includes new port upgrade investments totaling more than $500 million, up to two new U.S. factories for each major wind-farm component, including blades, towers and foundations, and access to $3 billion in debt capital to support the industry through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office.
Mariah Dignan, Long Island organizer for the labor group, Climate Jobs NY, called Biden’s announcement "a crucial step forward" for New York.
"With these new wind-energy areas off Long Island’s coast, we are at the center of the emerging offshore wind industry," she said in a statement. "We must make sure these projects continue to move forward and ensure this once-in-a-generation opportunity creates family-sustaining, union jobs for New Yorkers."
Joe Martens, director of the New York Offshore Wind Alliance, an industry group, called the Biden administration plans "staggering in their scope and magnitude" and said they’d trigger "billions in investments in New York and up and down the East Coast."
"While coastal states, particularly New York, have been aggressively pursuing this new-to-the-United States clean energy technology, we have lacked a partner in Washington until now," Martens said in a statement. "Today’s announcement changes that."