Cuomo announces awardees for major offshore wind contract

In what the New York Governor’s office noted was the largest single procurement for renewable energy by a U.S. state, on July 18 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the selection of contractors for two offshore wind projects with a combined capacity of 1,700 megawatts. The projects are the first in the state’s goal of developing 9,000 MW of offshore wind by 2035. 

The selections include an 880-MW project that is a joint venture of Danish company Ørsted A/S and Eversource Energy, which will focus on powering homes on Long Island, and an 816-MW project developed by Equinor US Holdings, Inc. that will focus on powering New York City. The New York State Energy and Research Development Authority has details on the project plans, which will be located 14 and 30 miles off the coast of Long Island.

NYSERDA's inaugural offshore wind procurement is nothing short of a watershed moment for the development of large-scale offshore wind in the United States, and by bringing thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity, these projects will also secure New York's status as the U.S. hub for this industry,” said Alicia Barton, President and CEO of NYSERDA in a press release. The state expects the projects to support more than 1,600 jobs and spur a combined economy activity of $3.2 billion statewide.

Long Island residents are served by the Long Island Power Authority, a public power utility. In 2018, LIPA joined the New York Power Authority in conducting a study of the transmission infrastructure required to support the Governor’s offshore wind targets. At the time the study was announced, the state’s target was for 2,400 MW of offshore wind.

The announcement comes on the heels of New Jersey’s announcement in June of a 1,100 MW offshore project with Ørsted and PSEG, which was the previous record for a single procurement.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, the technical potential of offshore wind in the U.S. is more than 2,000 gigawatts. As of July 2019, the U.S.’ total offshore wind capacity is only 30MW and comes from the Block Island Wind Farm off of the Rhode Island coast. To date, offshore projects have faced barriers to implementation, including the Cape Wind project off of Massachusetts which ultimately got canceled.

However, several entities maintain a positive outlook for offshore wind in the U.S. The Offshore Wind Economics Project of the Public Policy Center at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth lists the total amount of offshore wind being procured in the U.S. at 20.6 GW. This figure represents the total commitments from 10 states, largely in the Northeast, including projects that are contracted and those not yet begun.

Other recent commitments include legislation that requires the Maine Public Utilities Commission to approve a contract for a demonstration project of floating offshore wind, which Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed into law on June 19. In New England, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are making moves to spur the development of offshore wind projects.

Announcement paired with broader climate legislation

Cuomo made the announcement of the wind projects at an event where he also signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which “adopts the most ambitious and comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in the country,” according to a release on the Governor’s website. Former Vice President Al Gore joined Gov. Cuomo at the event.

Cries for a new green movement are hollow political rhetoric if not combined with aggressive goals and a realistic plan on how to achieve them,” said Cuomo. “With this agreement, New York will lead the way in developing the largest source of offshore wind power in the nation, and today I will sign the most aggressive climate law in the United States of America.”

The act mandates that the state have a carbon-free electricity system by 2040 and generate 70% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030. To achieve these goals, in addition to the 9,000 MW commitment for offshore wind, the state aims to install 6,000 MW of solar photovoltaics by 2025 and 3,000 MW of energy storage by 2030. The law also mandates that the state reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below the level of emissions in 1990 by 2030 and 85% by 2050.