New York state is attempting to move closer towards its goal of fifty percent renewable energy production with an announcement by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) that it has identified more than one million acres of offshore area along the south shore of Long Island for potential development.  The proposed offshore area has the potential to generate 2,400 megawatts of energy by 2030, enough to power 1.2 million homes.[1]

After a significant period of research, planning and consultation with commercial fisherman, NYSERDA has released recommendations to the Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which identifies four large offshore areas suitable for the creation of windfarms, as well as a written request from New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo for expedited approval from federal regulators to begin bidding for leases.  The proposed windfarms are a significant development in green energy production along Long Island and would dwarf the recently approved Montauk Point wind farm, currently under development by Deepwater Wind, which is expected to generate 90 megawatts of power by 2022.[2]

In December 2016, BOEM advanced the expansion of the offshore wind industry by auctioning off a designated Wind Energy Area (WEA) off the coast of Long Beach.  Based upon BOEM regulations issued in 2011 and amended in 2014[3], any lease will initially be limited to twelve  months, within which the lessee will be required to submit a site assessment plan (SAP) for approval by BOEM detailing how the lessee’s plans for environmental assessment.  Once BOEM has approved the SAP, the lessee is granted a term of five years within which to conduct all approved site assessment activities and submit a construction and operation plan (COP).  Any COP must satisfy the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) as well as be approved by BOEM.  Once the COP is finally approved, the lessee is then granted an operational term of twenty-five years to commence construction and operation of the facilities.

The recommendations by NYSERDA follow recent opposition to the development of wind power around northern New York.  Over the past decade or so, more than 40 communities in New York have moved to reject or restrict wind projects.  On May 10, the town of Clayton passed an amendment to its zoning ordinance that bans all commercial wind projects.  On Lake Ontario, a 200-megawatt project called Lighthouse Wind is fiercely opposed by three counties — Erie, Niagara, and Orleans, as well as the towns of Yates and Somerset.

There is significant opposition to offshore wind, as well.  The Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, along with the town of Narragansett, state of Rhode Island, the city of New Bedford, Massachusetts, and several other groups of fishermen, have filed a federal lawsuit to halt the $42 million dollar offshore wind lease south of Long Beach won last year by Norwegian oil company Statoil.  The suit claims that the lease in question would negatively impact some of the more significant squid and scallop fisheries on the eastern seaboard.[4]

NYSERDA’s competitive selection and awards for projects around New York state are currently anticipated in November.  The New York Power Authority (NYPA) has received numerous proposals incorporating an innovative financing structure called a pre-paid power purchase agreement, which is designed to lower the financing cost, as well as costs to consumers, for renewable energy projects. NYPA expects to complete contracts with winning developers in the first half of 2018.

Both the NYSERDA and NYPA solicitations are expected to lead to the creation of thousands of direct and indirect jobs from development, construction, operation and maintenance of clean energy projects through 2022.

Speaking on renewable energy proposals around New York, NYSERDA CEO Alicia Barton stated, “The pool of eligible bid facilities represents a pipeline of renewable energy projects that could generate more than 9.5 million megawatt hours per year, more than six times the quantity sought under the solicitation.  This robust developer interest in New York is exciting to see, and we expect that this level of competition will drive very attractive prices when the bids come in.”[5]