NY unveils nation’s first Offshore Wind Master Plan

Major blow: Fossil-fuel champions might not like it, but just about everyone else seems thrilled by the New York State Offshore Wind Master Plan.

With lofty short- and long-term energy goals – and a thumb directly in President Donald Trump’s eye – New York State has released the nation’s first master plan for the development of offshore windfarms.

The New York State Offshore Wind Master Plan will guide “the responsible and cost-effective development” of 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind-generated electricity by 2030, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

Winds of war: New York is battling Washington for its environmental life, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

That’s enough clean, renewable energy to light up 1.2 million homes. And it stands in direct opposition to a White House hell-bent on sustaining fossil fuel industries like coal and natural gas.

The master plan wastes no time, calling for the procurement of at least 800 megawatts of wind-generated juice by 2020 – a rapid response to what Cuomo describes as a quickly deteriorating situation in the nation’s capital, with New York State once again in the crosshairs.

“While the federal government continues to turn its back on protecting natural resources and plots to open up our coastline to drilling, New York is doubling down on our commitment to renewable energy and the industries of tomorrow,” the governor said Monday.

Offshore wind is an integral part of Cuomo’s larger renewable-energy strategy, which mandates that 50 percent of New York State’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030.

The comprehensive Offshore Wind Master Plan represents “one of the most robust and proactive public- and stakeholder-engagement processes of any state pursuing the development of offshore wind resources,” according to the governor’s office, including “hundreds of meetings and consultations” with business and environmental leaders and seven public-information sessions.

Referencing a number of industry analyses and scientific studies showing the burgeoning offshore wind-farming industry will create thousands of jobs in the coming years, the governor’s office also announced that Albany would funnel $15 million into local workforce-training programs “for (the) good-paying jobs needed to build offshore wind and develop port infrastructure.”

“We are drawing upon our world-class workforce, unmatched intellectual capital, physical infrastructure and financial institutions to develop this increasingly affordable clean-energy source that creates good-paying jobs while protecting Long Island’s natural beauty and quality of life,” Cuomo said.

Although President Trump has made a point of ridiculing wind-generated electricity while championing new coal mines and natural-gas pipelines, several studies show that offshore wind-farming matches its environmental superiority with hefty economic potential.

Heather Leibowitz: Prevailing winds.

One study cited by Cuomo’s office, Workforce Opportunity of Offshore Wind in New York, reports that a regional wind-farming industry centered off Long Island’s shores could generate upwards of $6 billion in public and private-sector expenditures, in addition to creating 2,700 manufacturing jobs, 2,000-plus operations and maintenance jobs and another 350 positions focused on project management and development.

The master plan was roundly praised by environmental activists Monday. Heather Leibowitz – on her last day as director of statewide advocacy organization Environment New York, before transitioning into her new role as an attorney for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation – called the final plan “a big step toward making the Empire State a leader in the effort to reduce air and water pollution and eliminate climate-altering carbon pollution.”

“By tapping into the abundant energy provided by this pollution-free resource, we’re well on our way to the ultimate goal of meeting our energy needs with clean, renewable energy,” Leibowitz told Innovate LI, adding Environment New York will continue working with Albany “to improve our health, our quality of life and the future of the planet with a swift and steady shift to clean, renewable energy.”

The New York Offshore Wind Alliance, a diverse coalition of nearly 30 organizations with a shared interest in promoting the responsible development of offshore wind power, also praised the master plan.

“New York State unquestionably is the leader when it comes to developing offshore wind projects and reaping the environmental and economic benefits they will bring,” alliance Director Joe Martens said in a statement. “The New York Offshore Wind Master Plan is an unprecedented, nation-leading effort that lays the foundation right here in New York for a new American industry.

“What New Yorkers need now is timely and decisive action to see that this plan becomes a reality,” Martens added.

Sensing that same need for speed, Cuomo is cracking the whip. The governor is calling on the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority to work closely with other state agencies to ensure prevailing wages and other labor standards are appropriately implemented on all offshore-wind projects.

To that end, NYSERDA has already filed an Offshore Wind Policy Options Paper with the New York State Public Service Commission analyzing different subcontracting options and has begun accepting solicitations from companies interested in contributing to that two-year, 800-megawatt appetizer.

To keep the process moving, the state is also forming an undetermined number of “technical working groups” consisting of experts and interested parties focused on issues ranging from offshore wind jobs to sea-based supply-chain logistics to commercial and recreational fishing.

Alicia Barton, NYSERDA’s president and CEO, said taking a vanguard role on the nation’s offshore wind resources represented “an unparalleled opportunity for New York to not only lead the nation in adoption of clean energy, but to reap the economic benefits of becoming a national hub for this promising industry.”

“New York will solidify its position at the forefront of the developing U.S. offshore wind market,” Barton said Monday. “And with it, the creation of thousands of well-paying jobs and millions of dollars of investment in our coastal communities.”

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