By GREGORY ZELLER //
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call for wind-energy harvesting in Long Island waters has earned rave reviews from environmental activists.
A who’s-who of regional rainmakers from the energy and ecology sectors are cheering Cuomo’s call for the Long Island Power Authority to approve what would be the nation’s largest offshore wind farm, proposed for the Atlantic Ocean about 30 miles southeast of Montauk.
The governor implored the LIPA Board of Trustees in a state-of-the-state speech Tuesday at Farmingdale State College, noting the wind farm proposed by Rhode Island-based Deepwater Wind poses no sight-pollution risk – “Not even Superman standing on Montauk Point could see these wind farms” – but takes a major step toward state renewable-energy ambitions that include 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind-generated electricity by 2030.
LIPA trustees first postponed a July 2016 vote on the Deepwater Wind proposal, reporting that NYSERDA – the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority – requested they hold off until Albany released its big-picture offshore-wind plan, part of the Cuomo administration’s larger roadmap to renewability.
On Sept. 15, the administration released the New York State Offshore Wind Blueprint – but when they convened Sept. 21, LIPA trustees said they were still considering the Deepwater Wind proposal, which has generated opposition from regional fishing industries and others.
The trustees also declined to vote on the proposal at regularly scheduled meetings in October, November and December.
Deepwater Wind, meanwhile, flipped the switch in December on America’s first ocean-based wind farm – a 30-megawatt turbine operation off Rhode Island – and is now pitching a 120-megawatt farm off the Maryland coast.
In Tuesday’s state-of-the-state address, with the offshore blueprint ready and Deepwater Wind making new overtures that eclipse even its grand designs for Long Island waters, Cuomo sounded tired of waiting.
“I’m calling on LIPA to approve a 90-megawatt wind farm,” the governor said. “The upside is tremendous … it’s jobs, it’s clean energy and it’s inexpensive energy, which then drives the economy.”
Not surprisingly, a legion of top-tier New York-based environmentalists are elated, many lending their voices to a joint statement issued by NYC-based environmental watchdog Environment New York. The chorus expressed high hopes that LIPA trustees will heed the governor’s call and approve the 90-megawatt farm when they convene this month, with Environment New York Director Heather Leibowitz applauding Cuomo’s “long-term, large-scale commitment” to wind-energy harvesting.
“Offshore wind has tremendous potential in New York State,” Liebowitz said Tuesday. “This commitment to offshore wind helps ensure that New York can reap the benefits of this clean, renewable resource right off our coast.
“A strong commitment to offshore wind sets New York on a path to achieve 50 percent clean energy by 2030,” Liebowitz added, “on the way to 100 percent renewable energy.”
Several high-profile activists agreed, including Senior Representative Lisa Dix of Sierra Club New York, who cited “a historic step forward in securing Gov. Cuomo’s legacy as a national climate leader.” Executive Director Gordian Raacke of Renewable Energy Long Island, a registered 501(c)3 promoting clean-energy causes, envisions the beginnings of “a regional hub for offshore wind development, creating jobs and attracting significant industry investments.”
With the recent news that the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant will be closing early in the next decade, “it makes more sense than ever to take advantage of the vast offshore wind resources off Long Island,” according to Kit Kennedy, director of the National Resource Defense Council, a not-for-profit environmental watchdog incorporated in New York State in 1970.
“By committing to scale up clean offshore wind power, Gov. Cuomo is taking concrete action to ensure that Indian Point’s power is replaced with safe, zero-carbon energy,” Kennedy noted.
Cuomo’s proposal has the support of regional construction trades, with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk Counties and Ozone Park-based Ironworkers Local 361 both applauding the plan in the Environment New York release.
It’s also earned praise from grassroots community-development group Long Island Progressive Coalition – Director Lisa Tyson recognized “an important step in the right direction” – and environmental advocacy organization Citizens Campaign for the Environment, with Executive Director Adrienne Esposito noting the commitment to offshore wind “cements Gov. Cuomo’s position as a renewable-energy champion.”
“[It] ensures New York will continue to move forward with projects that mitigate climate change, stabilize the rate base and protect our coastal communities, while providing good, local jobs for Long Islanders,” Esposito added.
All told, more than a dozen representatives of regional clean-energy and economic-development organizations congratulated Cuomo’s call in the Environment New York statement.
The LIPA trustees are scheduled to meet Jan. 25 in Uniondale. As of Thursday afternoon, no agenda for that meeting was available.
Whenever the trustees get to the vote, it won’t be soon enough for the New York Public Interest Research Group, according to spokesman Russ Haven, who said in the Environment New York release that the Deepwater Wind proposal is “smart for the climate [and] smart on the economics.”
“This is a significant commitment to harnessing Long Island’s abundant offshore wind energy,” Haven said. “And a big step towards powering the region sustainably.”