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Hochul: NY vying to attract offshore wind industry

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul says New York State

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul says New York State wants to be "the pre-eminent global hub for the next generation of growth" in the wind industry. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The competition is on among East Coast states to lure a nascent offshore wind industry to their working ports.

At a wind-industry conference this week that attracted hundreds of attendees and scores of businesses, state officials made open pleas to the largely European-based industry to consider their states for wind turbine manufacture, design and installation. The conference was packed with representatives from shipping, cabling, turbine design, insurance and logistics companies.

Atlantic states from Maine to North Carolina are planning extensive offshore wind arrays. New York’s goal is for 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030, potentially hundreds of turbines, most of it coming from arrays 15 or more miles from Long Island’s South Shore.

“We intend to be the pre-eminent global hub for the next generation of growth in this industry,” New York’s Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul told attendees at the American Wind Energy Association conference in Manhattan Tuesday.

She compared the state’s ambition to that which led to the start of construction of the Erie Canal two hundred years ago. “We believe there is absolute unrealized potential to drive our economy and create energy independence and the future of energy with offshore wind,” Hochul said.

Until the last few years, offshore wind initiatives have languished in the state. LIPA in the mid-2000s planned a 40-megawatt project three to five miles off Jones Beach, but then nixed it as too expensive. The New York Power Authority and LIPA partnered with ConEdison to conceive an array in 2009, but it did not progress beyond studies until the federal government opened up bidding on that lease last year. It went to Norwegian-based Statoil, which this week named the project Empire Wind.

Empire Wind’s project director, Christer af Geijerstam, at the conference this week, said he expects the 80-100 turbine array starting 14 miles from Long Beach could be producing energy by 2024 or 2025, depending on how quickly the company can secure all needed permits. Statoil is hiring staff in the region and is exploring locations for staging ports for future work.

LIPA has signed a contract for a 90-megawatt project in waters off Rhode Island between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard, an array that requires a 50-mile cable to Long Island. Developer Deepwater Wind has said “hundreds” of Long Islanders could work on the array, but the project is considerably closer to an existing staging area in Providence that constructed the nation’s first array near Block Island.

New York is far from alone in hoping to lure a multibillion-dollar industry. Bill White, senior director of offshore wind at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, a publicly funded agency to accelerate clean energy in the state, noted the sharp competition among states in seeking to bring all aspects of the industry to their shores. He wasn’t hopeful that states would specialize in certain aspects of wind development that would limit competition.

“It’s a bit naive to think states will divide up the market,” he said. “I think states will compete for business,” just as they are for a second headquarters for online retail giant Amazon.

Doreen Harris, director of large-scale renewables at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, noted there are already 60 companies working in the land-based wind supply chain in the state, a presence she said could be “much more significant” in serving offshore wind.

She noted the state’s 65 port facilities, from Long Island to the Hudson River, its skilled work force and the state’s willingness to fund studies and politically support the offshore industry, sentiments echoed in Hochul’s keynote address.

“We understand there’s competition, there are other states out there, even though we don’t always want to acknowledge that,” Hochul said. “But in order to make sure that you find New York State the best place for your business we are smoothing out the road for you,” including investing millions of dollars in ocean mapping and other studies.

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