State talks plans for wind power

Energy authority set to issue request for proposals


New York State Energy Research and Development Authority officials announced last month that the agency was seeking feedback on a draft request for proposals from potential offshore wind developers.

More than 50 people gathered on the sixth floor of City Hall on Sept. 26 to learn more about the state’s efforts to advance offshore wind energy and ask questions about the RFP process. NYSERDA sought comments from potential offshore wind developers and other stakeholders in the hope of finalizing the RFP, which would be issued this winter.

On Monday, a report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the world could see intensified droughts and flooding, disappearing coastlines and extreme heat that could lead to food shortages by 2040, according to The New York Times. The United States is the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind China.

NYSERDA’s efforts coincide with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s goal of producing half of the state’s electricity needs — up to 2,400 megawatts, enough to power 1.2 million homes — from renewable energy sources by 2030.

Agency representatives said the benefits of offshore wind energy include clean, locally produced power, support for investment in coastal infrastructure and the creation of thousands of short- and long-term construction, manufacturing and operations jobs.

NYSERDA has led the way in promoting the New York State Offshore Wind Master Plan, which encourages the development of offshore wind power in a way that is mindful of the environment and the maritime industry as well as economic and social issues, according to the agency. Since 2016, it has conducted 20 studies, officials said, and engaged with stakeholders and the public to “ensure the responsible and cost-effective development of offshore wind.”

The state and federal governments have collaborated on the plan: The Department of the Interior, through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, identifies areas for offshore wind development, while the state commits to buying the power from those projects.

There are currently six areas in New York waters that the federal government is leasing to wind developers: three east of Long Island, near Massachusetts, owned by Deepwater Wind, Orsted and Vineyard Wind; one south of Manhattan, owned by Equinor (formerly Statoil); and two southwest of Long Island, near the New Jersey coast, owned by US Wind and Orsted. On Monday, Orsted, which is based in Denmark, acquired Deepwater Wind for $510 million, according to Orsted, and the two companies plan to merge.

“We think the work that the master plan has advanced really serves as a solid foundation for the federal government’s decision-making,” said Doreen Harris, NYSERDA’s director of large-scale renewables. “And further, again, to realize this very exciting and robust industry for us as a state, we think we need more areas to help us do so.”

Last year, NYSERDA officials recommended areas that they thought were best suited for offshore wind development to the federal government. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management then began work on identifying more lease areas for potential developers, and NYSERDA officials said they would like to see that development happen as soon as possible.

“We see these new lease areas as being critical to our future development,” Harris said, “but in the meantime, we’re really excited to say that we are advancing New York’s first solicitations for offshore wind in the very near future.” The agency was recently awarded an $18.5 million grant from the Department of Energy to lead an offshore wind research and development consortium.

At the Sept. 26 meeting at City Hall, representatives of NYSERDA and BOEM invited audience members’ questions. “I was very pleased to see that a project labor agreement is a requirement of the RFP,” City Council President Anthony Eramo said. “I greatly appreciate that for the workforce for New York state.”

He asked if a change in the state’s political administration would affect the rollout of the wind development process. “All of the actions that have been taken in terms of the effectuation of the governor’s goal are actually through the New York Public Service Commission, through the orders of the Public Service Commission,” Harris explained. “So, in fact, these orders hold. They aren’t governed particularly by who is in office [at] that particular point in time. We’ve been working on renewables as a state for a very long time, and we’ve done it through many administrations. NYSERDA’s agreements stay in force.”

“I was kind of surprised to find out this has gone as far as it has,” said East Hills resident Cary Ratner, “because I don’t think that the public really understands what they’re getting for their money. My question is, What concern do you have to address the actual cost? Because everything you people have touched in the power industry in this state has been nothing but crap.”

A handful of audience members repeatedly yelled, “Time!” to cut Ratner off from speaking any longer than the allotted two minutes.

NYSERDA “did study, quite extensively, the cost of offshore wind,” said Matt Vestal, a technical adviser for the agency. “The cost of offshore wind has come down dramatically over the last even 12 to 18 months across the world. We saw the cost of offshore wind basically be cut in half in Europe from 2016 to 2018. This is obviously an issue that NYSERDA is taking very seriously. . . . The premiums associated with offshore wind above conventional fuel technology [are] rapidly diminishing over time, and this is great news for the industry and for New York ratepayers.”

NYSERDA accepted public comments on the draft RFP until last week, and is reviewing the input and working to finalize the document.