Interior to develop project off N.Y. coast

Source: Emily Yehle, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, June 3, 2016

The Obama administration is proposing to lease more than 81,000 acres off the New York coast for an offshore wind energy project.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced the proposal today, calling it a milestone in the administration’s effort to increase renewable energy development on public lands and in federal waters. The agency plans to conduct the lease sale by the end of the year.

“This is another major step in broadening our nation’s energy portfolio, harnessing power near population centers on the East Coast,” she said. “Offshore wind power marks a new frontier in renewable energy development, creating the path for sustainable electricity generation, job creation and strengthening our nation’s economic competitiveness.”

The proposal comes more than two months after Interior designated the “wind energy area” off New York (E&ENews PM, March 16). The proposed sale notice — which will be published in the Federal Register on Monday — will outline the details of a single lease sale for the entire area.

On a call with reporters today, Interior officials said the proposal took years to develop because of conflicting uses in a “highly used” part of the ocean. They emphasized that they had conducted “extensive stakeholder outreach” and decided on one lease sale — instead of two — to ensure there was adequate space.

“We know that some stakeholders, such as commercial fishermen, still have concerns,” said Abby Hopper, director of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Her agency, she added, will continue to work with stakeholders throughout the process. “Operating together in the offshore environment is complicated, multifaceted and extremely important.”

BOEM has so far awarded 11 commercial offshore wind leases, and officials hope the nation’s first offshore wind farm will become operational by the end of the year.

The New York Power Authority has estimated that the project could generate 700 megawatts of energy, powering 245,000 homes. But today, Jewell said that 2011 estimate was likely conservative, thanks to technological advances.

The proposal will be open for public comment for 60 days. That also serves as the deadline for companies to submit a qualification package so BOEM can determine whether they are “legally, technically and financially” qualified to bid.

An environmental assessment on the impacts of a lease sale will be published at the same time, with a comment period of 30 days.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has publicly supported the use of offshore wind to meet the state’s renewable energy goals. Today, several environmental groups — including the National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club and Alliance for Clean Energy New York — called on Cuomo to commit to a large-scale offshore wind program this year.

“A strong commitment to offshore wind as part of the Governor’s Clean Energy Standard would help launch an entirely new industry, with the capacity to power millions of homes, produce millions of dollars in economic investments and spur new economic development and manufacturing opportunities statewide,” they said in a joint statement. “Now is the time for Governor Cuomo and New York’s leaders to embrace the massive, job-creating power source needed to meet the state’s clean energy and climate goals.”