Inside the Expanding World of Offshore Wind
Pictured Above: Numerous wind companies are in the process of leasing federal underwater lands off our shores and developing offshore wind farms there.
While the East End has been focused on the development of the South Fork Wind Farm, a 130-megawatt offshore turbine installation about 30 miles off the coast of Montauk, the offshore wind industry has been gearing up for major expansion up and down the eastern seaboard.
New York State is playing a major role in this expansion, with Governor Andrew Cuomo pushing the envelope, pledging in this year’s State of the State address to produce 9,000 megawatts of electricity from offshore wind by the year 2035. Mr. Cuomo had previously pledged 2,400 megawatts of energy from offshore wind by 2030.
The New York State Energy & Research Development Agency (NYSERDA) took the first major step toward this goal this winter, soliciting bids for 800 megawatts of offshore wind. It is expecting to announce winning bids this spring.
In a mostly landlocked state, the impacts of this goal will be felt mostly on Long Island, where new infrastructure — bringing with it hope to power the island with renewables, as well as jobs, environmental impacts and potential disruption to fisheries — will tie this power in to New York’s electric grid.
In total, four companies submitted 18 separate bids.
The NYSERDA bidding process required a “base proposal” of 400 megawatts and two alternate proposals. The projects would tie into the grid in an area known as “NYSIO Zone K,” which is Long Island.
The price, amount of power, date of expected commercial operation and location of interconnection to the electric grid,as well as the technical specifications of the projects, have been redacted from publicly available copies of the bids for all bidders in this solicitation, so we do not have the details of each separate bid at this time.
Below is an overview of the companies that have submitted proposals, and the locations of their wind lease areas:
Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind is a joint project between EDF Renewables and Shell New Energies, which is indirectly owned by Royal Dutch Shell. It would be built in the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s New Jersey Wind Area about eight miles off the coast of Atlantic City on the outer continental shelf. Atlantic Shores signed a lease with BOEM to this 286-square-mile area in December of 2018, and estimates it can produce 2,400 megawatts of electricity there — enough to power nearly one million homes.
According to the companies, “the area offers strong and steady wind resources in relatively shallow water, close to large population centers with associated electricity demand.”
EDF Renewables has been active in Europe, with 2,800 megawatts of electricity in development or operation in Belgium, France, Germany and United Kingdom. Shell New Energies is involved in five wind energy projects on land in the United States, in Rock River, Wyoming; Grant County, West Virginia; Fluvanna, Texas; and two wind farms in the San Gorgonio Pass in California.
In all, Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind has submitted eight proposals to NYSERDA.
Empire Wind is a project proposed off the South Shore of Long Island by Equinor Wind, a subsidiary of Equinor ASA, a large cap publicly traded energy company headquartered in Norway that has developed wind farms off the coast of Britain, Scotland and Germany, and has also developed offshore oil and gas facilities. The company also recently invested $135 million in the lease of one of three offshore wind lease areas off the coast of Massachusetts.
Equinor signed the BOEM contract for its 125-square-mile lease area about 14 miles south of Long Beach in December of 2016. The company estimates it can produce up to 2,000 megawatts of electricity on this site.
Empire Wind has submitted four proposals to NYSERDA.
Liberty Wind-Vineyard Wind
Vineyard Wind’s proposed Liberty Wind project would be built on a 207-square-mile BOEM lease area “approximately 85 miles east of Montauk and over 30 miles from the nearest shore in Massachusetts,” according to their bid. It is just south of another lease area Vineyard Wind is developing to provide 800 megawatts of electricity to Massachusetts. That state awarded Vineyard Wind a power purchase agreement in May of 2018.
The Liberty Wind project is backed by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables, which they tout in their bid as having experience developing high voltage direct current electricity transmission systems. The proposal is also a collaboration with Anbaric Development Partners (ADP), which has done extensive work on developing submarine transmission lines in New York.
Liberty Wind did not redact some details of its three proposals, which include the 400 megawatt base proposal, an 800 megawatt proposal and a 1,200 megawatt proposal, which they said “offers the best price for New York ratepayers along with substantial economic benefits for New York through investments in local infrastructure and businesses and utilizing the state’s existing supply chain and workforce.”
The undersea transmission cable in Liberty Wind’s proposal would come ashore at Jones Beach State Park and connect to the grid at a LIPA substation at Ruland Road in Melville. They stated in their proposal that ADP had already done “extensive survey work, community outreach, a complete Article VII application with the New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC), and supportive commitments from New York state, county, and local governmental entities” on the cable route and landfall.
Sunrise Wind-Bay State Wind
This proposal is from a company that is most familiar to the East End. It’s a joint venture of Ørsted, the Danish firm that recently acquired South Fork Wind Farm developer Deepwater Wind, and Eversource, a New England electric transmission builder. The firms submitted three proposals.
Ørsted already has a separate contract from LIPA to purchase the power from the South Fork Wind Farm.
The BOEM lease area for this new project is just to the southeast of the South Fork Wind Farm lease area. In their proposal, Ørsted touts the site as “proximate to the New York market, high wind speeds and shallow water depths, negligible visual impact and a location conducive to co-existing with the fishing industry.”
In their bids, the firms highlight their experience — Ørsted built the world’s first offshore wind farm off the coast of Denmark in 1991, while Deepwater Wind built the first U.S. offshore wind farm off Block Island, which began producing power in 2016.
They also touted their financial capacity. Both Ørsted and Eversource are large cap public companies. The companies have an agreement with Con Edison Transmission to develop the transmission facilities for the project.
“We will not be relying on third-party debt, meaning we can make commitments faster, commence development sooner and place equipment orders and start construction activities at an earlier phase in our Project’s development, improving schedule certainty.”
The Local Discussion
Aside from extensive discussions in East Hampton about the South Fork Wind Farm, offshore wind hasn’t been on the radar of local governments here.
But Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell would like to see NYSERDA officials hold some local meetings to explain some of the information contained in thousands of pages of documents associated with its offshore wind goals.
He told the Southold Town Board at its Feb. 26 work session that “Greenport is a site that has been identified as one possible staging area” for workers to head out to the wind farms.
“This is something of regional importance. NYSERDA should host a variety of East End forums,” he said, adding that he believes NYSERDA should hold the local forums long before it gets to public hearings on the project or projects it picks.
NYSERDA representatives later agreed to make a presentation to the Southold Town Board at its March 26 work session.
At that session, NYSERDA Principal Engineer for Offshore Wind Adrienne Downey gave the town board an overview of NYSERDA’s role in implementing the state’s offshore wind plans, and in her agency’s interaction with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s lease program for offshore wind areas.
“Price is our predominant consideration,” she said of the bid proposals her office is currently examining from the four offshore wind companies. “Twenty percent is based on economic benefits. It’s important that this is a job creation opportunity for the state.”
Greg Lampman, the Program Manager for Environmental Research at NYSERDA, said his office is looking at how offshore wind is going to affect ecosystems and ocean users such as fishermen and cargo shipping.
He said the state primarily has a role in the routes of cables from offshore wind farms and where they make landfall.
“Gathering feedback is really critical,” he said. “There are environmental issues, supply chain and job issues, fishing and marine issues. We have technical working groups designed to facilitate communication between developers and the interest groups.”
“Fishermen coming out of different ports need to be able to navigate safely, sometimes in fair weather, sometimes in foul weather,” he said.
NYSERDA Offshore Wind Team Project Manager Matt Vestel said he is working on making sure projects economically benefit New Yorkers.
“Greenport is ID’d as a potential operations and maintenance port” by NYSERDA, he said, but “decisions made are largely a function of private developers. They’re going to make the decisions that are best for them and their projects.”
“The workforce needs to be ready to take the jobs,” he said.
Offshore wind developer Ørsted announced March 29 that it will dedicate $10 million dollars to an offshore wind job training program at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus if its project is awarded the NYSERDA contract.
“There’s a host of workforce development needs — welders, operations and maintenance, offshore wind safety,” said Mr. Vestel.
Town board members raised concerns that the wind farms would be disruptive to the fishing industry.
“Offshore fishing is certainly a challenge,” said Mr. Vestel. “They’re not a unified entity. There are different gear types and individuals. Some have a number of vessels, some have just one.”
“In the federal space, the areas where they encouraged leases are still in conflict, he said. “There is no space that isn’t fished by someone. They try to present areas of least conflict.”
Mr. Lampman said he believes outreach to ocean users is much better done by the state than by individual developers.
“Two years ago, in conversations with fishermen, it would just be ‘no,'” he said. “We have conversations now that are very productive. They’re trying their best to protect their industry. Balancing those tensions makes everyone a little uncomfortable.”
At the Feb. 26 work session, Southold Councilman Jim Dinizio pointed out a recent local uproar over the noise associated with a much-delayed underwater electric transmission cable from Greenport to Shelter Island.
“Some road end is gonna get that, but those road ends are going to be on the ocean, on the south shore” he said. “Greenport would definitely benefit from these boats that go out and maintain those things.”
NYSERDA representatives said at the March. 26 presentation that they’ve identified eight possible substation interconnection points where the electric grid is best suited to accept the new energy. The most easterly ones are at Shoreham and Riverhead.
“The reality is, there is going to be wind technology offshore, if they can mitigate the concerns of the fishing community,” said Mr. Russell. “In Southold, we desperately need the employment.”
Mr. Russell encouraged the NYSERDA representatives to come back for another presentation for the whole community.
“This is an important part of our process, and we’re welcoming engagement,” said Ms. Downey.
NYSERDA is expected to award a contract for the 800 megawatts of wind power this spring.
— Beth Young