Biden Puts Spotlight On Waters Off Long Island For Wind Power Future - 27 East

Biden Puts Spotlight On Waters Off Long Island For Wind Power Future

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The Biden Administration has said the waters off New York and New Jersey should be home to vast arrays of new offshore wind turbines, which it sees as both an economic and environmental boost to the U.S.

The Biden Administration has said the waters off New York and New Jersey should be home to vast arrays of new offshore wind turbines, which it sees as both an economic and environmental boost to the U.S.

There are several areas in the waters south of Long Island that have suitable water depth for the development of wind farms. New York State has recommended that only the areas in the New York Bight, on either side of the New York City shipping lanes, be use but the federal government is still entertaining allowing some developing in the waters off the South Fork as well. Three companies have told the government that they would be interested in building wind farms in portions of the area known as Fairways North.

There are several areas in the waters south of Long Island that have suitable water depth for the development of wind farms. New York State has recommended that only the areas in the New York Bight, on either side of the New York City shipping lanes, be use but the federal government is still entertaining allowing some developing in the waters off the South Fork as well. Three companies have told the government that they would be interested in building wind farms in portions of the area known as Fairways North.

authorMichael Wright on Apr 1, 2021

President Joe Biden’s administration this week declared all of the waters between the south shore of Long Island and the New Jersey coast — including a swath of water less than 20 miles south of the Shinnecock Canal — a priority area for the development of offshore wind.

It’s the foundation of an already accelerating rush to establish a new multibillion-dollar industry, create tens of thousands of jobs and set the United States on a course away from reliance on fossil fuel energy.

To do so, the White House threw its weight behind accelerating the pace of planning and development of offshore wind farms in the waters south of Long Island, which potentially could see thousands of turbines, each nearly 800 feet tall, sprout from the sea in the coming decade.

The call for an even faster pace of growth than is already underway also could mean that regions seen as suitable for wind farm development directly south of Southampton and East Hampton will get closer consideration.

While the administration’s announcement made no actual reference to specific areas of the sea where wind turbines should be built, it did say that the Department of the Interior will advance the creation of new leases of ocean floor for the development of wind farms. The goal will be to have 16 projects approved and ready for construction by 2025.

A dozen projects — including the South Fork Wind Farm that will send power to East Hampton — are already being planned on existing ocean leases between Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and Cape May, New Jersey.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has been considering vast new offerings of the ocean floor to wind farm developers since 2018 and has created a map of potential development areas south of Long Island based on water depths suitable for erecting wind turbines, seafloor contours and the necessary avoidance of shipping lanes.

The map shows four possible regions: two large triangular areas east and west of the New York City shipping lanes, and two thin envelopes of possibility to the east. One of the latter, dubbed Fairways North, stretches from south of Hampton Bays to Montauk, starting about 15 miles offshore and extending out as far as 25 miles in some areas.

After a year-long review and meetings with commercial fishermen, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, or NYSERDA, recommended that BOEM create new lease areas only in the two areas on either side of the shipping lanes into New York City, which it said would be able to accommodate hundreds, possibly thousands, of turbines.

The state specifically avoided the regions south of eastern Long Island, citing concerns about the impact large-scale wind farm development could have on the fleet of smaller commercial fishing vessels that work out of Long Island and southern New England ports, and rely on the grounds south Shinnecock for much of their harvest.

But BOEM has never ruled out the using Fairways North and another thin stretch of potential seafloor slightly to the southwest.

In 2018, it issued a request for wind farm developers to identify their interest in possible development in each of the possible new development areas. While most interest was focused on the areas closer to the metropolitan region, three companies did offer prospective ideas for Fairways North — with some turbines as close as 18 miles from shore.

The regions of ocean directly south of the East End are particularly sensitive for fishermen, according to Bonnie Brady, a commercial fishing advocate from Montauk, since they are critical grounds for the small boats that sail out of Shinnecock Inlet and Montauk to harvest sea scallops, fluke and squid.

Placing wind turbines in Fairways North, she said, would pose a navigational hazard and would drastically change the habitat of the ocean in the area, which is currently a sandy ocean plain, to one of hardened structure, which could upset the ecological balance that fishermen rely on.

Commercial fishermen have been the most strident opponents of offshore wind farm development and met this week’s announcement from the White House with renewed exasperation at the breakneck speed with which offshore wind development is apparently going to be introduced to the ocean off the Northeast coastline.

“Here we have the administration that holds science so near and dear just throwing science right out,” Ms. Brady said. “They are throwing up $4 billion to create this future industry, but they are not funding the science that should be the basis of all this and has to be done before build all these turbines. They could screw it all up, and then they’ll just say, ‘We didn’t know’ — but it’s the fishermen who will be hung out to dry.”

The Biden administration announcement said there would be $3 billion in federal loans made available for offshore wind projects, another $230 million in loans for related port and infrastructure projects, $47 million for offshore wind research and development — but just $1 million in grant funding to “improve understanding of offshore renewable energy for the benefit of stakeholders, including commercial fishing and coastal communities.”

Ms. Brady and others concerned about the industrial-scale development in the ocean have said there are still unanswered questions about what effect the thundering construction of turbines will have on various fish species. The noise and electromagnetic emissions of thousands of turbines and the mesh of electrical cables that will connect them may have an effect on fish and marine mammal migrations, she said. Other issues concern the metals used to construct turbines, and even how turbines could interrupt the natural wind patterns at sea that drive ocean currents.

The economic stimulus of the new industry, she added, will come at the expense of an old industry.

“We are thousands of mom-and-pop-shop small businesses, and the communities and infrastructure that surround us,” she said. “In what world do you close down businesses that feed people and allow multibillion-dollar foreign companies to come in and take over our [Exclusive Economic Zone]?”

But some environmental advocates have said that the shift to offshore wind is a necessary step for the region on a number of levels.

“Wind energy can power millions of homes, contribute to our economic recovery, create green jobs, support our communities and slash pollution,” said Julie Tighe of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “NYLCV applauds the administration for making wind energy and green jobs a top priority.”

The developers of the South Fork Wind Farm, the Danish energy company Ørsted, and its U.S. partner, New England utility company Eversource, issued a statement Monday praising the new federal emphasis on wind energy.

“Ørsted and Eversource applaud President Biden and his administration for taking strong steps toward realizing the tremendous potential of offshore wind energy to power the nation’s economic recovery,” the company said. “As the nation’s leading offshore wind developers, we know firsthand of the critical role that offshore wind will play in creating thousands of good-paying local jobs and revitalizing our port infrastructure.

“We’re proud to be building the first utility-scale offshore wind farms serving New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut, and we stand ready to support the bold path President Biden is charting for a nation fueled by affordable clean energy.”

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