In yet another indicator that COVID-19 will not stop the inevitable march of renewable energy into the sparkling green future, New York State just approved another 1,000 megawatts in offshore wind — and possibly much more, if all goes according to plan. That makes 2020 the second year in a row that the state’s wind plans have sailed past original expectations, and wind industry insiders are already anticipating more where that came from.
New York State Blows Past Offshore Wind Limit
For those of you new to the topic, New York is pretty much landlocked except for this thing called Long Island that pokes out into the Atlantic Ocean, forming a “bight” or sort of elbow in the coastline. The New York Bight provides the state with huge swaths of watery acreage to develop for offshore wind power.
As part of its overall clean power plan, the state is banking on 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030, on the road to 9,000 megawatts by 2035, contributing to a zero carbon grid by 2040.
The problem, in terms of cost, is that for various (okay, political) reasons the US offshore industry has been lagging far behind its cousins elsewhere around the world. That means the supply chain still needs to be built up for costs to come down, which explains why New York State is taking a step by step approach instead of biting off all 9,000 megawatts all at once.
On the other hand, the urgent need to ditch fossil fuels is getting more urgent by the day. And then there’s that thing about federal tax credits that are set to expire.
With that in mind, last year NYSERDA, the state’s research agency, contracted for 1,696 megawatts in offshore wind, even though the initial authorization was only supposed to be for 8oo megawatts.
All things being equal, the state should be sitting on those 1,696 megawatts this year. However, the use of a market-sensitive bidding instrument provides some flexibility to take advantage of future price declines, and just yesterday the state’s Public Service Commission authorized NYSERDA to go out and get another 1,000 megawatts in 2020 — or much more, as the case may be.
US Offshore Wind Industry Rejoices
All this activity is taking place, by the way, at a time when the entire US still has only one offshore wind farm in operation, the 5-turbine, 30-megawatt Block Island wind farm in Rhode Island, which has been up and running since 2015.
Why the five-year gap? Who knows! Nevertheless, New York’s aggressive move into offshore wind is helping to push ripples of activity all along the east coast, all the more so since the state has been tapped to organize the US wind industry for rapid growth.
The New York Offshore Wind Alliance, for one, greeted the PSC authorization with a rousing cheer.
“Especially during Earth Week, as the COVID-19 crisis further highlights the link between cleaner air and our ability to protect the health outcomes of our most vulnerable populations, I cannot think of a better demonstration of New York’s resilience and leadership than the PSC’s announcement to advance the nation’s largest offshore wind solicitation,” said the organization’s director, Joe Martens.
The Business Network for Offshore Wind has yet to issue a public statement, but they were already celebrating, having timed a major conference for Earth Week that took place on April 23 with 800 industry representatives attending remotely.
Among other speakers, they heard from the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which “told participants that the overall demand for offshore wind energy is high and growing, and that the industry is mostly on course to maintain its rapid development,” according to a Business Network press release
Business Network President and CEO Liz Burdock affirmed offshore wind’s role in COVID-19 recovery, remarking that “offshore wind energy will make a major contribution to this country’s economic revival in the coming months and years.”
It looks like things are already popping. Over at the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project in Virginia, any minute now they are expecting delivery of the first advanced monopile foundations for offshore wind farms to be used in the US, manufactured by Germany’s EEW Special Pipe Constructions GmbH.
“As a next step, EEW is working to realize monopile manufacturing in the US, starting with Ørsted’s Ocean Wind project and intends to bring hundreds of local manufacturing jobs to the US East Coast,” EEW has noted.
Coastal Virginia is only a 2-turbine, 6-megawatt demonstration project, but don’t be fooled by size. Aside from helping to spark life into the US offshore supply chain, the project is under the umbrella of the massive utility Dominion. The company plans to use it as a best practices, lessons-learned springboard that could smooth the way for its clean power plans, which include 2,600 megawatts in offshore wind.
It’s not just Dominion, either. Coastal Virginia is the first offshore project to receive federal approval through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and lessons learned during that process will help put other projects on a faster track.
Hold on to your hats!
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