Last month, the New York City Council Committee on Environmental Protection held an oversight hearing on the City’s role and influence on the state’s offshore wind development plans. Our New York City Policy Associate Carlos Castell Croke testified at the hearing.
The City and State have passed groundbreaking renewable energy targets under The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), Climate Mobilization Act, and OneNYC 2050. The two recent offshore wind energy contracts, Sunrise Wind and Empire Wind, are crucial developments needed to meet these standards, including CLCPA’s goal of producing 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2035, and generating 100% of the state’s energy from renewables by 2040.
Investing in offshore wind energy developments are critical to significantly reduce the state’s dependence on fossil fuels. These projects will further the City and State climate agenda by decreasing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change and the harmful air pollutants that contribute to serious health issues for New Yorkers.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) contracted a Danish energy company Ørsted A/S and New England-based Eversource Energy for the Sunrise Wind Project as well as Equinor, a Norwegian energy company, for the Empire Wind Project. The sites will generate a combined 1,826 megawatts of offshore wind energy. NYSERDA claims both will undergo commercial operation by 2024 and will ultimately power over one million homes in New York City and Long Island within five years.
Though much of the project advancement is happening at the state level, there are actions that the City can take to ensure a cost-effective and efficient transition to offshore renewable energy. This includes working with offshore developers to connect effectively to the grid. Transmission and interconnection will be a complex process with facilities in different jurisdictions. The City can make sure the transmission projects are equitably sited and efficiently built, as well as secure the needed zoned sites for interconnection. Empire Wind is expected to connect to New York’s electricity grid at the Gowanus Substation in Brooklyn, while Sunset Wind will connect at the Holbrook Substation in central Long Island. New York City may facilitate the needed upgrades that must be made to the grid in order to support the transmission of large quantities of power generated by offshore wind.
The City will also play a significant role in supplementing needed port infrastructure investments, such as the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal (SBMT) and Arthur Kill Terminal. According to Equinor’s Director of External Affairs, Julia Bovey, SBMT has the potential to become the center supply chain for the State and the largest offshore wind facility in the country. SBMT could ultimately serve as an operations base for offshore wind projects across the region, placing New York City as a hub for wind energy technology. The City is also able to facilitate the required permits, community involvement, and environmental reviews to authorize the construction of the needed project sites.
These developments offer positive economic impacts as well. NYSERDA states the projects will support over 1,600 jobs and bring a combined economic impact of $3.2 billion to the state. Additionally, the required job training will be supported by public and private investments. New York is financing $20 million in offshore wind training programs towards the State University of New York (SUNY) system, including at SUNY Maritime College in the Bronx. Ørsted and Equinor have already contributed millions of dollars as well. Ørsted is spending $10 million to fund a National Workforce Training Center at Long Island’s Suffolk County Community College. Equinor is setting $4.5 million aside for workforce development out of a projected $60 million to upgrade New York ports. Equinor is committed to working with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Employment Agency to employ workers from disadvantaged communities, including Sunset Park, who are often most harmed by the fossil fuel industry. Providing New York City residents with access and training for these jobs as the city recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic is essential.
New York City will play a vital role in the development of Sunrise Wind and Empire Wind projects. These ventures in offshore wind energy will bring New York City and State closer to achieving the goals set by the CLCPA and pave the way for establishing an economy dependent on clean energy rather than fossil fuels. In turn, this will put the city and state at the forefront of climate change mitigation and provide a sustainable future for New Yorkers.