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NYS offshore wind energy plan envisions $6 billion industry by 2028

The state says the industry could employ up to 5,000 people and the turbines aren’t expected to be visible from Long Island’s shore.

The Cuomo administration released a master plan for

The Cuomo administration released a master plan for offshore wind energy. Photo Credit: Newsday / Mark Harrington

New York State on Monday is to release an exhaustive master plan for offshore wind energy that foresees up to 5,000 people employed in and around a $6 billion industry by 2028, with annual health benefits from reduced emissions valued at up to $400 million.

The Cuomo administration plan also makes clear that while offshore wind representing 2,400 megawatts and hundreds of turbines will be in the waters south of Long Island, none is expected to be visible from shore. The state expects more than 1.2 million homes could be powered by offshore wind.

The 60-page report is accompanied by 20 supplemental studies representing more than two years of work and thousands of pages of analysis. The studies examine everything from viable ports to turbine manufacturing and wind-farm construction and staging to the need for cables, pipelines and other infrastructure, as well as the impact on birds, bats and fish.

The state determined that an area encompassing just over 1 million acres can accommodate wind turbines at least 21 miles from land to “ensure that, for the vast majority of the time, turbines would have no discernible or visible impact from the casual viewer on the shore.”

The area, generally due south of the Great South Bay, “has the best potential to be the most cost-effective and desirable area for future wind development” off the state coast, the report said.

The area sits directly below a 79,000-acre wind farm already planned by Statoil called Empire Wind, which is expected to be operational by 2024. The maps omit any placement of turbines off the coast of the South Shore.

The state this year plans to offer the first procurement for at least 400 megawatts of offshore wind, with another 400 megawatts set for procurement in 2019, with a total 2,400 megawatts expected by 2030.

Release of the master plan comes as the federal government, even as it forges ahead on offshore wind leases, also has released plans to open nearly the entire U.S. coastline to oil and gas drilling.

“While the federal government continues to turn its back on protecting natural resources and plots to open up our coastline to drilling, New York is doubling down on our commitment to renewable energy and the industries of tomorrow,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement. He said the initiative will “develop this increasingly affordable clean energy source that creates good-paying jobs while protecting Long Island’s natural beauty and quality of life.”

Commercial fishing interests have generally opposed offshore wind plans, citing the loss of fishing grounds and concerns about environmental impacts.

Gary Cobb, an advocate for East End fishermen, said he sees no need to rush ahead with offshore wind given LIPA and PSEG’s statements that Long Island has adequate power for decades.

“If there is no urgency, why are we even willing to consider putting our [ocean and bay] environment at risk?” said Cobb, urging the state to study the impact of the new Block Island wind farm before expanding in waters off New York.

The state plan contemplates seven different options for purchasing energy from wind projects, including long-term fixed contracts, offshore renewable-energy credits to help support the nascent market and, in a first for the state, the prospect that a utility (other than LIPA or PSEG Long Island) could own the offshore wind farms after third-party development.

A senior administration official said the idea is to create large pockets of opportunity for wind developers so they can reduce costs through economies of scale, and through state investments in workforce training, manufacturing and electric infrastructure.

The strategy “is to recognize that the path to the least cost to consumers is greatest scale,” said the official. “That’s why there’s such an effort to identify a large market.”

The master plan foresees three distinct coastal geographies serving the new offshore wind industry — New York Harbor, the Hudson River and the coast of Long Island.

Cuomo earlier this year said the state would invest $15 million in a “clean-energy workforce development and infrastructure advancement,” training workers for jobs in offshore wind construction, installation, operation and design.

The master plan represents a first big step for the state’s vision of the offshore wind industry, but it also notes that considerable work needs to be done. It establishes a series of working groups, including a jobs and supply chain group, an environmental technical working group, and a commercial and recreational technical working group to “define strategies and activities that could help members engage effectively in offshore wind energy development.”

Several state agencies, including the Research and Development Authority and the Public Service Commission, have helped develop and will continue to fine-tune and approve the plan in the coming months and years.

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