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Big Biden plan to harness wind

Wind turbines seen off Block Island in 2016.

Wind turbines seen off Block Island in 2016.  Credit: AP / Michael Dwyer

New York has made big strides in developing offshore wind as it moves toward a green-energy future. Last week, even before President Joe Biden made big news with his infrastructure plan, he delivered a boost to the state and to the nation writ large with an even bolder plan of his own.

The president's proposal — to develop 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy, enough to power more than 10 million homes in the tristate region and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 78 million metric tons by 2030 — is very ambitious. It must be to meet the mammoth challenge facing a world and region beset by rising temperatures and rising seas.

Long Island is central to this effort. The ocean areas identified by the Biden administration as suitable sites for offshore wind arrays are in the New York Bight, the part of the Atlantic Ocean nestled between Montauk and New Jersey's Cape May. The federal effort will build on contracts New York has already awarded for nearly half of its own 9-gigawatt goal by 2035.

Biden's plan is not just an environmental winner. It's also a jobs machine, creating as many as 80,000 good-paying positions in development, manufacturing, construction, and operations and maintenance — some of them on Long Island.

The proposal includes more than $500 million for port upgrades, $3 billion in loan guarantees for offshore wind projects, and millions more for research and development projects on innovative support structures for turbines and new electrical systems, among others. Planned studies on the impact on the fishing industry and on coastal communities are important for Long Island.

Nationally, catalytic effects come from the development of new factories to construct the turbines and cables, the building of as many as six $250-to-$500-million vessels to install the turbines, and the additional demand for American steel. The administration also vowed to speed up permitting, which has been woefully slow, and to complete reviews of at least 16 wind-farm proposals by 2025.

As wind farms are planned and permitted, it also will be important to develop a transmission grid at sea. Collecting the power offshore and bringing it onshore at fewer locations will be cheaper and more efficient, and will decrease NIMBY concerns like those dogging the landing of a cable in Wainscott from what likely will be Long Island's first offshore wind farm off Montauk.

The federal government and developers should listen to and, where possible, address the concerns of the fishing industry and mitigate possible dangers to birds. One positive sign: Biden's plan reduced in size the areas it deemed suitable for wind arrays, giving even more deference to commercial fishers and Coast Guard concerns about popular boating lanes. And aesthetic concerns regarding the visibility of the turbines will have to be weighed carefully.

But it's clear the future is now here: It's time to reap the bounty of the wind.

— The editorial board

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