New York’s offshore dreams now have a blueprint

Albany has released a strategic plan to advance the development of offshore wind resources along New York’s coastline, including a giant wind farm 12 miles off Long Island’s shores.

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday announced publication of the New York State Offshore Wind Blueprint, a 24-page (including acknowledgements and indexes) framework for the responsible generation and transmission of coastal wind-generated electricity.

The blueprint was created by the New York State Research and Development Authority with “contributions” from a number of state and regional offices, including the Department of Environmental Conservation, Empire State Development – Albany’s main economic-development engine – and the Long Island Power Authority.

Noting “offshore wind is available to New York City and Long Island,” the blueprint concludes that 38 gigawatts of clean, wind-driven energy awaits in the coastal Atlantic – enough to power approximately 15 million homes, if properly harvested.

To that end, the plan – which also received input from state labor leaders and historic-preservation experts – outlines a strategic approach to responsible development, while still helping New York reach ambitious clean-energy goals including a commitment to power the entire state with 50 percent renewable sources within 14 years.

Calling release of the blueprint “the next big step forward,” Cuomo said the offshore efforts solidify New York as “a national leader in combating climate change.”

“This plan represents the future of New York and will cement our role as a leader in the renewable energy industry for generations to come,” the governor said in a statement.

In June, NYSERDA announced its intention to participate in the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management auction of an 81,000-acre “wind energy area” located 12 miles off the Long Island coast, making NYSERDA the first state entity to participate in a BOEM auction.

A public comment period on the potential sale of the 81,000-acre site closed Aug. 5 and an official auction date has not been set. Should it win the auction, NYSERDA would be eligible to oversee development at the site, “ensuring that any project will be developed at the lowest possible cost for electricity consumers while protecting the environment and growing the economy,” according to the governor’s office.

The Offshore Wind Blueprint will help inform NYSERDA on, and prepare it for, the auction process.

“This blueprint lays out how New York will responsibly harness clean and cost-effective energy from offshore wind,” said NYSERDA President and CEO John Rhodes, adding the plan will “drive clean-energy development to benefit all New Yorkers and fight the dangers of climate change.”

The blueprint also defines the New York Offshore Study Area and identifies potential “wind energy areas” outside that zone, which will also be considered with regards to grid interconnections, costs and overall project benefits.

Among the scheduled studies is NYSERDA’s digital aerial survey of offshore wildlife, said to be the world’s largest-ever survey of its kind. The inspection of 16,000 square miles off Long Island’s eastern and southern coasts, which completed its first survey flights in August, will provide baseline data on birds, marine mammals, sea turtles and other wildlife calling those waters home, to help planners better understand – and potentially mitigate – environmental impacts of offshore development.

The Offshore Wind Blueprint and subsequent studies will lead to New York State’s first Offshore Wind Master Plan, expected to be completed by the end of 2017.

“The blueprint is a critical step to ensure New York State will realize its aggressive clean energy goals,” state Energy and Finance Chairman Richard Kauffman said Thursday. “Offshore wind will be a critical contributor to achieving the state’s Clean Energy Standard mandate to serve 50 percent of the state’s electricity demand from renewable resources by 2030.”