NY readies release of wind-energy draft blueprint

Source: By Mark Harrington, Newsday • Posted: Monday, August 8, 2016

New York State is set to release a draft blueprint for its offshore wind-energy ambitions in a matter of days or weeks, a plan that could ultimately result in 1,430 power-producing turbines spinning in federal waters from New Jersey to Rhode Island, including two potential sites directly off Long Island.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority on Friday said the draft blueprint will “describe the benefits of developing New York’s offshore wind potential and outline how the state will collect and document feedback.” Stakeholders include consumers, utilities, environmental groups, coastal communities, commercial fisherman and the maritime industry, the authority said. It said the blueprint will be released “this month.”

A final Offshore Wind Master Plan will provide “strategic options to support properly sited offshore wind development to combat climate change,” it said.

While NYSERDA wouldn’t discuss the blueprint directly last week, the state telegraphed its ambitions for offshore wind energy in a cost analysis released as part of its recently approved Clean Energy Standard, which seeks to derive 50 percent of state energy from renewable resources by 2030.

As previously reported in Newsday, the April report identified six potential wind energy areas for that study, five of which it determined as the “closest, most advanced and/or most representative of the wind-resource potential.”

In all, the state said, a maximum of 11,440 megawatts of wind power can be garnered from the sites off New York. Each megawatt of offshore wind energy powers about 320 average homes, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group. The state estimates the cost for wind is about $5.2 million a megawatt, a figure that could decline gradually as more farms are built.

The state analysis laid out an aggressive building schedule for offshore wind farms, starting with 50 turbines in the first year and ramping up each year to 240 by year 11.

NYSERDA’s April cost analysis included a potential site 12 miles from the coast of the South Fork, where the state indicated a possible 3,081 megawatts of power could be harnessed from some 385 turbines. Local officials in Southampton and East Hampton towns have already expressed disfavor with such a site, although they favor another proposed by Deepwater Wind some 30 miles from Montauk Point in waters off Rhode Island.

An NYSERDA spokeswoman emphasized, “No decisions on offshore wind development areas will be made without extensive input from local communities, the commercial fishing and maritime industries, environmental advocates and other key stakeholders.”

The state may not propose wind farms on all areas of the map, NYSERDA said, and may consider other areas entirely.

The turbines would deliver power through connection points throughout downstate New York. Undersea cables analyzed by the state could connect at two LIPA transmission connecting points at Shore Road on Hempstead Harbor in Western Nassau. Other connection points reviewed include one in Westchester owned by Con Edison, an Astoria connecting point owned by the New York Power Authority, and another on Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal owned by Con Edison.

The study described the Hamptons wind farm and another about 20 miles off the coast of central Suffolk as the “most representative” of the five sites studied because of their better offshore wind resources and “mid-depth” water. Generally the deeper the water and the farther away the turbines, the more expensive a wind farm becomes.

Two proposals — a LIPA deep-water project and NYSERDA-led plan — are already moving forward. LIPA trustees had been scheduled to vote on a wind-energy proposal from Deepwater Wind that proposes to place 15 turbines some 450 feet high in waters south of Rhode Island. LIPA staff is expected to recommend the project, and trustees are expected to vote to authorize LIPA to negotiate a contract with Deepwater by early next year.

But LIPA has been mum on the topic since NYSERDA requested its trustees delay their vote last month to await the blueprint. LIPA spokesman Sid Nathan said the authority is awaiting release of the state blueprint, and deferred to NYSERDA. Also, he said, “LIPA cannot comment on details of the generation project which is still under negotiation.”

While studies, approvals and construction generally require up to seven years to complete, LIPA has previously said it expects to “expedite” the process and have the Deepwater wind farm up and running by the end of 2022. A Deepwater official declined a request for interviews. The developer last week reached a milestone by installing turbine blades on the first U.S. offshore wind farm off the coast of Block Island.

The proposed 90-megawatt Deepwater wind farm, if approved, will produce somewhat less than that amount of power, both because of the intermittent nature of wind and because of a loss of power that comes from sending it over a 30-mile-plus cable, a phenomenon known as line loss. LIPA declined to specify the amount of line loss of the Deepwater project, suggesting it was one of the details that remained “under negotiation.”

Earlier this year, NYSERDA commandeered a separate project that had been initiated by LIPA in 2008 to build up to 700 megawatts of wind power off the coast of Long Beach. The federal government is expected to begin a lease auction for that 81,000-acre wind-energy area later this year, and NYSERDA will be the state’s lead bidder. At least two other companies have expressed an interest in bidding.

If it wins, NYSERDA has said it will hold an auction of its own to contract out construction of the wind farm, while the state itself conducts the numerous studies required for approval.

New York State already has 1,014 land-based wind turbines, mostly upstate, providing 1,749 megawatts, according to the wind energy association trade group.