Suffolk Closeup: They’ve Only Begun

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“We are witnessing a tipping point in energy history, and today’s commitment to large-scale investment in offshore wind power proves that New York walks the walk of powering our economy with renewable energy,” said Gordian Raacke, executive director of Bridgehampton-based Renewable Energy Long Island, following approval by Governor Andrew Cuomo of two major offshore wind farms in the waters off Long Island.

Mr. Cuomo, in his July 18 announcement of the projects—one starting 30 miles east of Montauk Point, the other 14 to 30 miles mainly off Nassau County but also off a portion of southwest Suffolk County—said, “With this agreement, New York will lead the way in developing the largest source of offshore wind power in the nation.”

The project off Montauk Point, if 10-megawatt turbines are used, would have 82 turbines; the project off Nassau and southwest Suffolk, 88.

“Offshore Wind Farms Are Spinning Up In The U.S.—At Last,” a Wired magazine headline in April read. The article noted that “wind power is nothing new in this country,” and 56,000 wind turbines are in operation on land.

“But wind farms located offshore, where wind blows steady and strong, unobstructed by buildings or mountains, have yet to start cranking”—and that is changing. A factor in that is that “the technology needed to install them farther away from shore has improved … making them more palatable to nearby communities.”

Economics greatly favors wind energy. Wired noted that the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities in April awarded Vineyard Wind a contract to provide electricity from offshore wind turbines “at 8.9 cents per kilowatt-hour.” The average price of electricity per kilowatt-hour in the United States is currently more than 12 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The wind—and the sun—don’t send bills. Once wind turbines are erected or solar panels installed, there’s no charge for fuel: Energy blows in the wind and shines down from the sun freely.

Still, said Wired, developers of offshore wind need to “respond to concerns about potential harm to fisheries and marine life.”

That issue has been raised by fishing interests and others in the Town of East Hampton, where a 15-turbine wind farm, also east of Montauk Point, has been proposed. (It’s not part of the projects just given the state OK.)

In East Hampton, the group Win With Wind has formed and maintains that offshore wind and fishing can be compatible. Leading figures in Win With Wind are former East Hampton Town Supervisors Judith Hope and Larry Cantwell, both with exemplary environmental records.

Offshore wind power has been booming outside the United States for years. Indeed, Denmark-based Ørsted, involved in the wind farm Mr. Cuomo approved off Montauk Point, operates 1,150 offshore wind turbines off Denmark, the United Kingdom, Germany, Taiwan and Holland.

“We’ve built more offshore wind farms than any other developer in the world, and we’ve only begun,” Ørsted says on its website. “The Ørsted vision is a world that runs entirely on green energy.”

Ørsted purchased Deepwater Wind of Rhode Island last year and then entered into a partnership on several projects with Eversource, the largest energy supplier in New England. Ørsted and Eversource are partners in the two wind farms proposed off Montauk Point.

The first offshore wind farm to rise in U.S. waters was developed by Deepwater Wind and began running off Block Island in 2016. It’s now operated by Ørsted.

I’ve been to the five-turbine Block Island wind farm, and it is impressive. Each turbine occupies a small footprint in the ocean. Their 240-foot-long blades revolve slowly, silently—indeed, gracefully. “Awesome!” said one passenger on the boatload of officials and environmentalists who visited the site. “Beautiful,” said another.

At a beach on Block Island, there are cable connections, but you would not notice them. They run underground. Their only sign is a conventional manhole cover, used for maintenance, located in the parking lot of the public beach. (Another concern expressed by some in East Hampton has involved the location of bringing wind farm cables onto shore.)
Mr. Cuomo not only approved the two wind power projects but at the same signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act passed by the State Legislature in June. The act’s provisions include requiring New York to achieve a carbon-free electricity system by 2040.

A contradiction to the state’s approach is Mr. Cuomo having in recent years pushed a $7.6 bailout of four uneconomic upstate nuclear power plants, a bailout now underway. It is adding a surcharge on the electric bills of every individual ratepayer, business, educational and governmental entity in the state. It is predicated on the false claim that nuclear power doesn’t emit carbon-based greenhouse gases—when, in fact, the “nuclear cycle” including mining, milling and fuel enrichment, is carbon intensive, and nuclear plants themselves have emissions including radioactive carbon.

 

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