The last time the region heard from Ryan Zinke, the Interior secretary had included federal waters off Long Island for consideration for offshore oil and gas drilling. That was preposterous. Zinke seems to have come to the same conclusion and is now touting the benefits of offshore wind energy. Welcome aboard.
Zinke noted recently the lack of evidence of oil or gas off our coast and the greater risks of ocean drilling. Plus, the region lacks the infrastructure to support drilling. But his embrace of offshore wind’s potential comes with a word of advice: Proceed wisely.
In calling for proposals for wind energy in new areas off Long Island, Zinke identified a much larger swath for leasing than what state officials have outlined in their offshore-wind master plan. Some of Zinke’s areas are closer to shore and one is directly south of the entire South Fork — places rejected by state officials in part because they would generate opposition from fishers and from the public for aesthetic reasons.
Another concern is getting the wind energy to where it’s needed. The South Fork’s demand will be met by a wind farm to be built southeast of Montauk. Moving power from South Fork turbines into New York City, for example, could be logistically difficult and very expensive. Statoil, a Norwegian company, has won a lease for 80,000 acres off Jones Beach that could produce as much as 1,000 megawatts.
Planning and coordination will be needed to reach Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s goal of 2,400 MW of wind by 2030. Zinke needs to work with state officials who know our waters and our politics to come up with a realistic plan for wind power that won’t be blown away by storms of opposition.