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More Offshore Wind Projects Are Coming to New York

MEGAN ZEREZ, HOST: For over three decades, some European cities have been powered by offshore wind farms. In the United States these projects are relatively new. In fact there are currently only two working off-shore wind farms in the entire country. But to counter climate change and reach our emission goals, more wind power generation is coming to the gusty East Coast. Hayley Zhao has the story.

HAYLEY ZHAO, BYLINE: If you stand on the New Jersey shore and face the ocean, you’re looking at a good place to generate electricity.

JOE MARTENS: The closest area in shore off to the water extends out is very shallow compared to other places.

ZHAO: Joe Martens is the Director of the advocacy group NY Offshore Wind Alliance.

MARTENS: It's shallow enough so we can actually put foundations in the water to support the turbines. That's what makes the Northeast so suitable for these offshore wind projects. (00:12)

ZHAO: You won’t be able to see them from the beach, but large wind turbines with blades as long as a football field are planned for a site miles off the Jersey shore. The project was developed over five years ago. At the signing ceremony for the bill authorizing the project, Gov. Cuomo said:

GOVERNOR CUOMO: we’re going to take greater steps forward today than any state has taken to date. We will lead the way in developing the largest source of offshore wind power in the United States of America.

ZHAO : The plan aims to produce 9 gigawatts of power by 2030, enough for 6 million homes. Last month, to facilitate the plan, the Biden Administration announced the creation of a designated wind energy area in the New York Bight. The Bight is an area of shallow water between Long Island and the New Jersey coast. Dr, John Hall is an engineering professor at SUNY Buffalo. He says the plan will vastly increase current wind power generation in the state.

JOHN HALL: I was under the impression that it was up to like 20 or 30 gigawatts. And so that's a thousand times, a thousand times what we have now. That'll provide power to like, you know, 10 to 12 million homes.

ZHAO: Development of large offshore wind projects in the US has been slowed by several factors. Relatively low gas and oil prices have made them a more costly option. And there’s been local push-back against large scale projects. In 2001, a plan for a wind farm off Cape Cod was aggressively fought by coastal communities.

MARTENS: After, you know, a very, very expensive and litigious process, the project finally collapsed. I think one of the lessons learned what big lessons learned then was don't put them so close to the coastline.

ZHAO: Martens says future wind projects in New York State will be built far off shore.

MARTENS: So on a perfectly clear day or in a perfectly clear night, You might be able to recognize a little object on the horizon but these are not going to be disruptive features on the landscape.

ZHAO: Concerns have also been raised about long term costs to consumers, but Martens says these will be minimal.

MARTENS: And just to give you an example in those two first contracts that New York had a solicitation for an announced the award winners in 2019, they estimated that the cost for a residential customer to build those two projects would be about 81 cents per rate payer per month.

ZHAO: The project in the New York Bight is expected to create about 30,000 jobs.

The project is still in its early stage--but the first step is now underway: creating lease areas in the New York Bight for auction to energy producers, possibly as soon as this year.

Hayley Zhao, Columbia Radio News.

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