The old Brooklyn Navy Yard was the centerpiece of seagoing innovation from its startup in 1801 to its decommissioning in 1966, and it has not been asleep at the wheel since then. In the latest development, the emerging tech incubator Newlab has paired with the leading renewable energy developer Ørsted to launch a whole new raft of ventures from the Navy Yard, beginning with offshore wind power — just in time to take advantage of a huge new offshore wind opportunity announced by the Biden administration for the New York Bight. Wait, the New York what?
New York State Is Ready For Its Offshore Wind Closeup
Before we take a look at Newlab and Ørsted, let’s take a quick look at the New York Bight.
At first glance, New York State does not seem to be a particularly fruitful candidate for national offshore wind leadership. Aside from an inland foothold on the Great Lakes, New York would be almost entirely landlocked if it wasn’t for Long Island, which juts out like a giant splinter on the southernmost toe of the state.
The northern shore of Long Island sits opposite Connecticut and forms something called the Long Island Sound, which refers to a relatively deep, narrow stretch of coastal ocean between two land masses. In this instance, “sound” is also is shorthand for nope, not gonna let any wind turbines in here. The local fishing industry is among a number of factors working against the idea of adding wind turbines to the crowded waters of the Long Island Sound.
The situation is different on the southern shore of Long Island, which is a feature of the New York Bight. A bight tends to be more open and less deep than a sound, forming a sort of broad, curving elbow or corner in a coastline. Picture Long Island as the forearm, with the upper arm formed by the northern reaches of the somewhat notorious New Jersey shoreline.
Where Have You Gone, New Jersey?
The relatively shallow waters of the New York Bight combine with its proximity to the high-population New York – New Jersey metro to make it a prime location for offshore wind energy, and therein lies a tale.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been quick to jump on the wind energy economy. Back in 2018 the curiously wind-friendly Trump administration even handed leadership of the nation’s the newly minted Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium to the Empire State, which is curious considering that Trump’s history with wind turbines is less than friendly.
In New Jersey, it was a different story. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie swept into office in 2010 with a Koch-fueled energy agenda. The to-do list included slow-walking renewable energy standards written into state law, and passing up an opportunity to host millions in Energy Department funding for an innovative new wind turbine.
Oh, There You Are!
Well, that was then. Even while Christie was still in office, the Trump administration was moving forward with plans to festoon the Jersey coast with offshore wind turbines. Christie left office in 2018, a new Governor took the reins, and now the Garden State is jockeying for its place in the wind power spotlight.
In the latest development on that score, last year current New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced plans to build a massive wind turbine monopile manufacturing facility at an existing New Jersey port on the Delaware River, giving it easy access to the booming market for offshore wind turbines all along the Atlantic Coast, beginning with Ørsted’s forthcoming 1,100 megawatt Ocean Wind offshore wind farm located down in the southernmost reaches of the state.
It looks like the era of slow-walking is over. Ground broke on the new monopile factory in April, bringing New Jersey’s so-named Wind Port to life. Monopiles are long, pole-type supports for offshore wind turbine towers, and they are just the beginning. If all goes according to plan, the idea is to add wind turbine blade, nacelle, and tower manufacturing to the Wind Port mix.
Ørsted & Newlab & More Offshore Wind
If you caught that thing about Ørsted and the Ocean Wind offshore wind farm, you may be wondering how they got dibs on the first order of monopiles to roll out of the New Jersey Wind Port. That’s an easy one. Ørsted is a lead investor in Wind Port, and that’s just part of its interest in New Jersey’s budding wind industry.
Ørsted is already working on winning the bid for Ocean Wind 2, which includes an investment of $11 million for a fleet of electric trucks at the Port of Newark. The company is also chipping in $2 million for green workforce training through the New Jersey WIND Institute, which is also an R&D center, and speaking of R&D, that finally brings us to Newlab.
Earlier this week, Newlab and Ørsted announced the launch of of Blue Energy Studio, described as a “a collaborative initiative designed to drive innovation towards a future powered by renewable energy.”
“The Blue Energy Studio will engage entrepreneurs, engineers, inventors, and corporate partners, beginning with Ørsted, to test and iterate innovative solutions to critical challenges across the renewable energy value chain,” the partners explain.
Newlab and Ørsted plan for Blue Energy Studio to cast a wide renewable energy net, but the initial focus will be squarely on offshore wind.
“During its initial phase, the Studio will focus on offshore wind innovation, and will recruit technology companies focused on streamlining the investigation and installation of new sites for offshore wind development; improving efficiency in site operations and maintenance; and optimizing power distribution to energy grids,” they explain, which sounds kind of what the WIND Institute is all about.
If there is any rivalry between New York and New Jersey, it looks like Ørsted is determined to bridge the troubled waters with a ring of offshore wind turbines featuring the latest cost-cutting, high efficiency technology, so stay tuned for more on that.
Offshore Wind Comes To The New York Bight
If the name Newlab rings a bell, that’s because CleanTechnica has become a frequent visitor of late. Recent coverage includes moveable mini urban farms, a trial of new e-bikes and scooters, and a new energy harvesting device for parking garages from the startup Roadpower (Ford is another high profile Newlab partner, btw).
Meanwhile, the opportunities for planting more monopiles off the shores of both New York and New Jersey have been sprouting like red Solo cups on the lawn after a house party.
Earlier this week, the US Interior Department blew up the Internet by proposing the first sale of offshore wind leases in the New York Bight. This is kind of a a dog-bites-man story, because offshore wind leases were a dime a dozen during Trump’s tenure (weird, right?). However, the proposed Bight sale rises to the man-bites-dog level because it is the first proposed offshore lease sale during the Biden-Harris administration, and it comes under the President’s environmental justice, inclusive, and worker-friendly policies.
“The New York Bight is a prime example of how regional cooperation, partnerships, and stakeholder feedback can come together to identify areas suitable for offshore wind development,” said Amanda Lefton, who directs the Interior Department’s Of. “Today’s announcement demonstrates that fighting climate change and creating union jobs can go hand in hand.”
The proposed sale consists of eight leases in the New York Bight, which could generate a combined total of more than 7 gigawatts in offshore wind energy.
That could be an underestimate. At the current rate of wind energy innovation, New York Bight developers could be looking at a whole new generation of high efficiency wind turbines and related equipment by the time they’re ready to get steel in the water, thanks in part to Ørsted and Newlab.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Image: Monopiles and other offshore wind turbine foundation systems courtesy of US Department of Energy.