New York State Awards Major Offshore Wind Contracts

Gov. Cuomo, seated right, congratulates climate activist and former vice president Al Gore, center, at the contract signing Thursday (NYS)

Published Jul 19, 2019 10:40 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Thursday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo formally executed the largest offshore wind power procurement in U.S. history, signing contracts for 1,700 megawatts of capacity at two project sites. It is the largest renewable energy purchase ever made by a U.S. state government.

"Offshore is no longer a science fiction idea. [Its] time has come. The cost has dropped dramatically and we are the leading state in the United States of America in actually doing it, not talking about it but actually doing it," Cuomo said in an interview Friday. "Let's be the first state to transition to the new [green] economy because . . . there is money to be made there." 

The first project is Sunrise Wind, an offshore lease site 30 miles east of Montauk. It will be developed by Danish wind power giant Ørsted in partnership with New England energy company Eversource, and it will provide 880 megawatts to the power grid on Long Island. As part of the agreement, Sunrise Wind will build an operations and maintenance hub in Port Jefferson, Long Island, investing in port infrastructure upgrades and establishing offshore wind training programs. Subject to the partners' final investment decision, the wind farm is expected to be in operation by 2024. 

Sunrise Wind is adjacent to Ørsted’s South Fork and Revolution Wind projects, creating the possibility for multi-site synergies during construction and operation. South Fork is New York's first offshore wind farm, and Ørsted expects that it will come online by 2022.

The second project is Empire Wind, a site located 14 miles southeast of Manhattan. It will be developed by Norwegian state-owned oil major Equinor and will provide over 800 megawatts of power for New York City. The project is expected to be developed with 60-80 wind turbines, with an installed capacity of more than 10 megawatts each. Total investments will be about $3 billion, and the expected start up date is in late 2024.

Together, the two projects will provide 10 percent of the state's power, create more than 1,600 jobs and generate $3.2 billion in economic activity, according to the governor's office. The two contracts represent the state's first step towards a planned 9,000 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity.

At a ceremony marking the occasion, the governor also signed the New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which requires that 70 percent of New York's electricity must come from renewables by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040. Cuomo also used his speech to rebuke the Trump administration for its decision not to incorporate the scientific community's views on climate change into federal policy. 

The financial terms of the contracts - including public subsidy levels - were not disclosed at the time of the announcement.

Vineyard Wind hits federal permitting difficulties

The developers of the massive Vineyard Wind development off Martha's Vineyard say that they have put the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on notice that the project will face challenges if its Environmental Impact Statement process is not completed soon. Vineyard Wind says that it has also brought the matter to the attention to Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, who has final authority over BOEM's review process.

The agency's decision was expected on July 12, but the department informed Vineyard wind that it was "not yet prepared" to issue a permit. A spokesman noted that the BOEM's two-year review window still allowed considerable time.  

“We note that it is not unusual for there to be ongoing review of an EIS as it makes its way through the internal approval process, especially for a project of this significance," Vineyard Wind said in a statement. “The National Environmental Policy Act requires an EIS to consider all best available information, which we believe BOEM has done. We are therefore confident that any remaining reviews can be concluded and an EIS released soon after."

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker told media that the BOEM's delay was due to specific technical issues, not to any opposition to wind power in general. "They gave Vineyard Wind and us a fair amount of guidance with respect to the things we should focus on and people are going to be focusing on those between now and the end of the month.”