Windfarms

Green Buildings Law

Windfarms

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is advocating the construction of a wind power complex off the coast of Long Island, similar to the wind turbines in the North Sea off the coast of Denmark. Bloomberg and his sustainability director Rohit Aggarwala have called on government agencies and utilities in New York to create a 700 megawatt (MW) offshore wind power complex. The project would cost $3 billion and be the largest wind project in the world.

Bloomberg argues that wind power is "a lot better than digging up coal and transporting it and belching pollutants into the air", and is superior to "buying foreign oil". He states that "it's good for the planet long term. It's good for the air right now... and it makes economic sense". However, offshore wind power has been opposed by some New York residents, who claim that wind farms may, among other things, negatively impact on views. In response, Bloomberg notes that the wind power complex would be further from the shore than was outlined in previous proposals, which garnered opposition. With greater distance, however, comes greater expense and complexity from a permit and operations perspective.

If the project comes to fruition, it will provide less than 1% of New York City's peak electricity needs, with 350 MW distributed to Long Island and 350 MW to New York City. In response to questions on whether New York should spend billions of dollars on a project that will provide just a fraction of its electricity needs, Aggarwala stated that the wind project is part of the bigger energy-efficiency picture, which includes a new natural gas plant in Astoria that will displace older, less efficient facilities, and new legislation aimed at improving energy efficiency in the city's buildings.

Green Buildings Law

On December 28 2009 Bloomberg signed into law four bills that comprise New York City's Greener, Greater Buildings Plan. The legislation, which the mayor described as "the most significant action to date" towards achieving PlaNYC's emissions goals (a 30% reduction in annual greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030), is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 4.75%.

The first of the bills, Intro 476-A, requires private buildings that exceed 50,000 square feet and commercial buildings that exceed 10,000 square feet to track and assess their energy and water use by using an online benchmarking tool developed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Energy and water use will be reported annually and the city will make such information available to the public.

Intro 564-A amends the city's administrative code to establish an energy conservation construction code. The new energy code sets energy performance standards for covered residential and commercial buildings and applies to all renovations to such buildings. This legislation represents a more stringent approach than that of the New York State Energy Code, the standards in which apply to renovation projects only if such projects entail the replacement of at least 50% of a particular building system.

Intro 967-A amends the city's administrative code to require the performance of energy-efficiency audits and the submission of energy-efficiency reports for buildings that exceed 50,000 square feet. An energy audit must identify all reasonable energy-efficiency and retrofit measures that would reduce energy use and costs. Building owners must implement energy efficient maintenance practices prior to filing the energy efficiency report for their buildings. Intro 967-A also amends the New York City Charter to require city buildings to implement those retrofits that have been recommended in the buildings' energy audits. The cost of implementation will be recouped in seven years through energy savings.

The fourth bill, Intro 973, calls for the upgrade of lighting systems in commercial buildings that exceed 50,000 square feet before 2025. The legislation also requires that electrical consumption by certain commercial tenants be measured in sub-metres.

In addition to the new legislation, the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan establishes a working group designed to assess green workforce training needs and a revolving loan fund to help to finance energy-efficient retrofits.

For further information on this topic please contact Jessica Steinberg or Bridget Lee at Sive Paget & Riesel PC by telephone (+1 212 421 2150), fax (+1 212 421 2035) or email (jsteinberg@sprlaw.com or blee@sprlaw.com).

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