By JOHN DURSO and ROSS GOULD //
They say you need to lead, follow or get out of the way. In New York, we’ve never been good at the last two.
But we are in danger to being relegated to those positions, if we don’t act affirmatively and decisively on a plan to grow our offshore wind capabilities – and, in turn, our available and high-paying jobs – on Long Island.
Last week, the New York State Public Service Commission announced an order for how to begin to implement Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s offshore wind initiative, which is an essential part of his goal to make half of New York’s electricity generated by renewable energy sources by 2030.
Part of that plan would put wind turbines off the Atlantic coast of Long Island, creating the first 800 megawatts of wind-generated electricity on a journey to 2,400 megawatts that can power more than 1 million homes without fossil fuels. Reducing the cost of generating the electricity would also result in lower energy costs for regional customers, who currently pay some of the highest utility bills in the country.
If we seize this opportunity, some 5,000 jobs and $6 billion worth of projects would blow in with the wind powering the turbines – jobs and economic opportunity that we’d be foolish to turn down.
More than 70 occupations that already exist on Long Island – from construction-trade jobs and engineers to vessel operators, bankers and lawyers – will all grow as a direct benefit of these projects. In addition, a single wind turbine consists of 8,000 parts, requiring a large supply chain that will help to grow Long Island’s almost 3,000 manufacturing businesses.
So where will these workers come from?
The Workforce Development Institute, funded by the State Legislature, has a 25-year track record of helping private industry create programs to quickly fill jobs in highly technical areas, including manufacturing, robotics and skilled trades. We further understand how to scale these programs, working to supply a qualified worker pipeline to companies that want to grow.
And isn’t pushing boundaries what New York is all about?
These benefits – cleaner, cheaper energy and more, higher-paying jobs – are compelling. And concerns about sightlines and environmental impact should be collaboratively addressed, rather than stand in the way of what we will gain as a result.
But there’s also a ticking clock hanging over our heads.
Just to our north, Rhode Island has successfully built five wind turbines that created 300 local jobs. Massachusetts has a competing 800-megawatt wind farm program that will create a projected 3,600 jobs.
Additionally, the local ports that will be the receiving points for the parts needed to build the turbines will need upgrades – to the tune of some $100 million – further rippling the positive economic effects of the program even wider. Will those ports be in New York, or elsewhere?
The offshore wind industry can bring good-paying jobs and boost manufacturers’ businesses on Long Island and in other parts of New York. But without bold and visionary leadership, those jobs will blow away to other Atlantic coast states.
While the Public Service Commission order is an excellent step forward, if New York wants to be the hub of the offshore wind industry (as Lt. Gov. Kathleen Hochul has proclaimed on several occasions), we must seize the opportunity to lead by investing in our workforce, our port infrastructure and our already existing manufacturers, who are clamoring for more business. It’s now or never.