Wind Farm May Be Built Off Long Island

Source: By TATIANA SCHLOSSBERG, New York Times • Posted: Thursday, March 17, 2016

Construction of a wind farm off Block Island, R.I., began in July, with a barge carrying pieces of foundation that were to be sunk and stabilized in the water. Credit Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times 

An area in the windy waters off Long Island has been designated as a possible site for a wind farm, the federal government announced on Wednesday.

New Yorkers will not be seeing offshore turbines anytime soon, however. The Interior Department and its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said they were moving toward auctioning a lease for the site, about 11 nautical miles off the coast of Long Beach and stretching about 26 nautical miles to the southeast.

The process of planning the wind farm, which could take several years, involves environmental assessment, an auction, further assessments of the site and construction plans, and an environmental impact report. Much of the planning is also submitted to the public for comment.

This site, about 127 square miles, was chosen after the New York Power Authority, a state agency, submitted a proposal to the ocean energy bureau to build wind turbines there in 2011.

The agency’s regulations required that it make the proposal public to determine if other entities were interested in building a wind farm in that area. According to the ocean energy bureau, two private companies, Fishermen’s Energy and Energy Management, have expressed interest in developing the site.

Thus far, the federal government has issued 11 leases for wind farms on the East Coast from Virginia to Massachusetts. The country’s first offshore wind farm, in the waters off Block Island, R.I., is under construction.

The plan to auction a lease for the site follows a surprising decision by President Obama this week not to allow oil or gas drilling off the southeastern Atlantic coast, a victory for environmental advocates and coastal communities who had opposed a previous plan that would have permitted it.

In a statement on Wednesday, Sally Jewell, the interior secretary, said, “New York has tremendous offshore wind potential, and today’s milestone marks another important step in the president’s strategy to tap clean, renewable energy from the nation’s vast wind and solar resources.”

In its proposal, the Power Authority said the site could host 194 wind turbines, each generating 3.6 megawatts for a total possible yield of 700 megawatts — or, by some estimates, enough to provide electricity to nearly 300,000 homes.

This project is not the first offshore wind farm proposed in the New York area. Other proposed locations have included the former landfill on Staten Island that is now Freshkills Park, and New York Harbor. Leases for two so-called wind energy areas were recently awarded for the waters off Atlantic City. And last year, the first turbine arrived on the shores of Brooklyn.

Offshore wind farms have previously been the subject of intense debate — notably, the Cape Wind project in the Nantucket Sound off Cape Cod. While the lease for that site has been awarded, the turbines have yet to be built, largely because of funding troubles, though the project also faced considerable opposition from residents, fishermen and business owners.

If a wind farm is developed off the southern shore of Long Island, it may inspire more muted protests from homeowners, if any, in part because it is far from the shore at its eastern end.

Perhaps in anticipation of some of those arguments, the ocean energy bureau has created video simulations of the turbines from several spots in New York — Fire Island, Jones Beach, Jacob Riis Park — and from Sandy Hook and Asbury Park in New Jersey.

Kit Kennedy, the director of energy and transportation for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said public opinion about offshore wind is different from what it was at the height of the fight over Cape Wind.

The federal government has since streamlined the process of building offshore wind farms in the Atlantic Ocean, as part of the “Smart From the Start” initiative.

Ms. Kennedy said the prospects for broader embrace of renewable energy projects, reinforced by the president’s announcement this week, were encouraging.

“We’ve come a long way,” Ms. Kennedy said. “It’s a new day for offshore wind.”