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New York State has a $6 billion offshore wind energy backup plan just in case Trump's new solar tariff kills the US solar industry.

Clean Power

Yes, New York State Is $6 Billion Serious About Offshore Wind

New York State has a $6 billion offshore wind energy backup plan just in case Trump’s new solar tariff kills the US solar industry.

Newsday has the scoop on an elaborate offshore wind energy master plan cooked up by New York State, and it sure is a doozy. If all goes well, New Yorkers are looking at hundreds of turbines with a capacity of 2,400 megawatts, and a $6 billion industry employing 5,000 people.

That’s quite a feat considering that as of today, there is only one offshore wind farm in the works for the Empire State, so let’s take a look and see what’s cooking.

Look! It’s An Offshore Wind Farm!

As followers of the ill fated Cape Wind project in Massachusetts know, one very important aspect of offshore wind in the US is aesthetics. As described by Newsday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has made it clear that the new wind farms will not be visible from shore, though apparently in rare instances you might catch a glimpse.

That’s an important consideration for any Atlantic coast state with a hefty tourist industry, and all the more so for New York. Most of the Empire State is landlocked except for Long Island, which juts out from New York City into the Atlantic Ocean and boasts some of the most expensive seaside real estate on the East Coast.

The funny thing is, New York State’s first wind farm is slated to be built in a federal lease area off a coastal part of New York City that happens to be equidistant from part of the New Jersey coast. That’s the Empire project under development by oil and gas giant Statoil.

Regular readers may recall that former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie stalled offshore wind farm development (among other environmental initiatives) throughout his tenure, but it looks like some Jersey shore residents and visitors might get to enjoy the clean power view anyways, because the tips of the Empire wind turbines might be visible from parts of the Garden State.

More Offshore Wind For New York State

As of this writing, Governor Cuomo’s office is still holding on to that offshore wind master plan, so let’s go back to Newsday for more detail.

The master plan looks at an area of more than 1 million acres sitting a little farther out than the Empire wind farm.

Keep in mind that Statoil’s Empire project is in federal waters. New York’s master plan covers state waters, but presumably it can forge ahead even if President Trump moves to quash the federal lease program (so far, he hasn’t). Here’s the rundown:

The state this year plans to offer the first procurement for at least 400 megawatts of offshore wind, with another 400 megawatts set for procurement in 2019, with a total 2,400 megawatts expected by 2030.

Yes, They Are Serious About Offshore Wind

The whole thing is still in the planning stages, but the new master plan is a significant step forward. It carries out the promise of an earlier New York State “blueprint” master plan for offshore wind and it puts muscle behind Cuomo’s “Clean Energy Jobs And Climate Action Agenda” outlined in his State of the State address earlier this month, laying an elaborate network of steps for launching the renewable energy dream into reality.

Here’s a snippet from the Governor’s office teasing the new master plan earlier this month:

In the 2017 State of the State, Governor Cuomo took the bold step of establishing a target of up to 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, the largest commitment to offshore wind power in U.S. history…Cuomo is calling for a procurement of at least 800 megawatts of offshore wind power between two solicitations to be issued in 2018 and 2019, resulting in enough clean, renewable energy to power 400,000 New York households.

Apparently certain naysayers are pointing out that Long Island already has adequate power supply for the foreseeable future, but that can be a little deceiving. Per capita electricity demand in New York State is relatively low in part because many households still depend on petroleum for home heating. If the cost of offshore wind drops low enough to compete, the home heating part of the petroleum market could shrivel up in favor of electric baseboards.

As for the intermittent nature of wind power, Cuomo has that angle partly covered with a $200 million energy transmission and storage proposal included in his 2018 State of the State speech, so stay tuned for more on that.

Meanwhile, What About That Solar Tariff?

The other big news about clean energy in the US this past week has been over President* Trump’s new solar tariff. CleanTechnica has been covering that from different angles, including the prospect of solar industry upheaval leading to a slowdown in US solar development. The worst predictions may yet bear out (or not, as the case may be), but in the meantime a couple of interesting developments are taking place.

First, solar developers have been stockpiling low cost solar panels in advance of the tariff, which should help smooth any price spike and keep projects rolling through the pipeline, at least temporarily.

Second, Reuters reports that US solar manufacturer Sun Power is putting its expansion plans on hold, apparently in hopes of wrangling a tariff exemption out of the Trump Administration.  The company is based in the US but does most of its manufacturing overseas, and so would be subject to the tariff. Shocker!

Third, if and when US solar panel manufacturing gets up to speed, much of the work is going to be done by robots, as with other manufacturing sectors. It’s no coincidence that the other product covered by Trump’s tariff announcement is washing machines. US washing machine manufacturer Whirlpool laid off thousands several years ago and spent millions on a newly automated facility, and the new tariff will help protect that investment.

In effect, Trump’s new tariffs are protecting jobs for robots, not factory workers.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a thing.

Go figure.

Follow me on Twitter.

*As of this writing.

Photo (screenshot): Deepwater Wind via NYSERDA.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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