Ambitious goals are rarely achieved overnight. Persistence is required when the journey is long — as with the state's admirable goal of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels to blunt the worsening effects of climate change.
New York took another step forward on that trail with the recent announcement by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that the state was issuing another big solicitation for clean energy in general, and offshore wind in particular — progress dampened by the postponement, due to the state's coronavirus-induced dismal financial position, of the $3 billion environmental bond act that had been proposed for November's ballot.
The new plan to award 2,500 megawatts of offshore wind, added to the 1,700 megawatts awarded last year and a separate 132-megawatt project contracted by the Long Island Power Authority, will bring the state nearly halfway to its goal of 9,000 megawatts by 2035. Another 1,500 megawatts to be awarded for onshore clean energy shows the state is driving hard to the goals laid out in the historic climate change legislation signed by Cuomo last year — a carbon-free electrical grid by 2040 and a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.
But this isn't just a numbers game. The state's continuing commitment is also vital for its timing, amid the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and understandable worries that the financial earthquake it created might mean less focus and funding on climate change. New York is proving that making progress is not an either/or proposition.
Long Island has seen the dangerous effects of climate change in rising seas and more intense storms. We know fighting back is necessary. But it's also becoming clear that converting to clean energy is a winning financial proposition for the region, too. The economics of offshore wind are improving; bid prices in offshore wind auctions in northern Europe, where offshore wind is common, dropped by 12% per year from 2015 to 2019. More clean energy will hasten the retirement of the region's dirty, inefficient power plants, and create other benefits — like jobs. The two projects awarded last year will create 1,600 jobs with salaries averaging more than $100,000, many on Long Island, and more than $3 billion in economic activity. All of that will increase with the new awards.
Cuomo also announced $400 million in public and private matching funds for 11 New York ports that are part of the expanding offshore wind infrastructure — including Port Jefferson. Sunrise Wind, which will build an 880-megawatt wind farm some 30 miles off Montauk, has said it will invest $11 million in port infrastructure upgrades in Port Jefferson, and its hub there will include an office facility, a warehouse and dockage for a 250-foot boat to do wind farm maintenance. Combine all that with plans for two worker training centers at Suffolk County Community College and at Stony Brook University and Farmingdale State College, add the revenue that will come to supply-chain businesses, and it's clear:
Investing in offshore wind energy is a financial and environmental win for Long Island.
— The editorial board