Environmentalists, union officials and others popped champagne Wednesday after a New York utility approved plans for a modest wind energy farm off the east coast of Long Island.
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The project won't generate much power — just 90 megawatts from 15 turbines when it opens in 2022 — but supporters hope it will help prove the feasibility of larger offshore wind farms.
"By taking this first step and committing New York to move forward with enough offshore wind power to light 1.25 million homes by 2030, Gov. Cuomo has positioned New York state to be the leader in realizing the infrastructure, jobs and economic development benefits of the emerging U.S. offshore wind industry," said Kit Kennedy of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
While Europe has been generating offshore wind energy for decades, the first offshore wind energy project in the United States opened late last year. Five turbines south of Rhode Island are generating enough energy for 17,000 homes. The Long Island project approved Wednesday would be three times larger, but there are ambitious plans for projects that would dwarf the first two.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which has jurisdiction over offshore wind energy projects in federal waters, has auctioned several large tracts of the Atlantic Ocean for wind energy development including a 79,000-acre area southeast of New York City where as many as 194 turbines could be built. Another auction is scheduled for March for 122,000 acres off the North Carolina coast.
The builders of the Rhode Island project that opened last month, Deepwater Wind, were awarded the contract for the wind farm approved Wednesday by the Long Island Power Authority. Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski said the cost of the new project is $740 million.
"There is a huge clean energy resource blowing off of our coastline just over the horizon, and it is time to tap into this unlimited resource to power our communities," Grybowski said.
Cuomo says New York is committed to developing up to 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind power by the end of the next decade. That's enough power for 1.25 million homes.
Long Island Power Authority CEO Thomas Falcone said improvements in technology allow utilities to build wind power projects farther from the coast, which eliminates complaints about eyesores, and the efficiency of the turbines being built is continually improving the energy generating capacity.
"The most exciting thing is it's a gateway project," Falcone told authority trustees before their unanimous vote. "It's the first step. It is our first project. It is the first project for New York, it's the largest project to date, but it's not our last project and it will not be the largest project."
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