New York Awards Offshore Wind Contracts in Bid to Reduce Emissions

Source: By Ivan Penn, New York Times • Posted: Friday, July 19, 2019

The only commercial offshore wind farm in the United States is near Block Island, R.I.
Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

New York State, which last month passed an ambitious law to reduce the emissions that cause climate change, said Thursday that it had reached an agreement for the country’s largest offshore wind farm projects.

The wind projects, to be built off the coast of Long Island, will start operation within the next five years. They will have the capacity to produce 1,700 megawatts of electricity and will account for about 20 percent of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s overall goal for offshore wind, an energy source that has been slow to take off in the United States.

The wind projects are meant to be an important component of the state’s plan to get 70 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. The projects will be built by a division of Equinor, the Norwegian oil and gas company, and a joint venture between Orsted, a Danish company, and Eversource Energy, an American firm.

“With this agreement, New York will lead the way in developing the largest source of offshore wind power in the nation,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Today we are true to the New York legacy — to lead the way forward, to govern with vision and intelligence, to set a new standard, and to match our words with action.”

Offshore wind farms have increasingly become mainstream energy sources in Northern Europe. They also supply some of the cheapest electricity in countries like Britain and Germany.

Offshore wind’s share of annual electricity generation in Britain increased from less than 1 percent in 2010 to more than 6 percent in 2017. By 2020, it is expected to reach 10 percent.

There are just five commercial wind turbines in American waters, near Block Island, R.I. Several small projects are in development, including one under construction in Virginia by Dominion Energy. New Jersey last month selected Orsted to build a 1,100-megawatt wind farm off the coast of Atlantic City.

But some other projects like Vineyard Wind’s plans for turbines off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard have been delayed by federal and local regulators.

As concerns about climate change have mounted and the Trump administration has sought to roll back environmental regulations, some states have been scrambling to finds ways to reduce emissions and encourage the use of renewable energy.

Lawmakers in California, which has endured two years of devastating wildfires that experts believe have been made worse by climate change, passed legislation last year that requires that 100 percent of the state’s electricity come from carbon-free sources by 2045.

The state has also has been considering offshore wind. But the deep waters off the West Coast will require wind turbines that can float, rather than be attached to the sea floor. The waters in the East Coast are shallower, making it easier and cheaper to install turbines there.

There are only slightly more than a dozen floating wind turbines around the world, mostly in Europe and Japan.