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New York’s Wind Power Master Plan

Remember The Simpsons episode where Homer scoffs at the idea that one animal could provide all his favourite meat: bacon, ham, pork chops: “Yeah right, Lisa. A wonderful magical animal, hehehe.” Well, the pig is to diners what offshore wind turbines are to New York State.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo has just launched a 60-page Master Plan, detailing the state’s commitment to wind power – and importantly the expected gains from seeing it through:

– 2400 MW offshore energy will power in excess of 1.2M homes

– It will employ up to 5000 people

– The state’s port infrastructure will be enhanced

– $15m will be committed to training the required workforce

– The industry will be worth $6b in a decade

– Support the city’s goal of sourcing half of its power from renewables by 2030 (equivalent to taking 1m cars off the road)

– Health benefits from cleaner air worth $400M

The report is the product of two years of extensive research and is supplemented by 20 studies. The authors assessed every aspect that the plan would have, from lying cables, pipelines, manufacturing turbines and developing the wind farms, and wider environmental issues like the impact on birds, bats and sea life. The result is a proposal for a 1m-acre site, positioned 21 miles from land. Due south of the Great South Bay, “for the vast majority of the time, turbines would have no discernible or visible impact for a casual viewer on the shore.” By locating so far out, the projects could avoid or minimise potential conflicts for shipping lanes and the fishing industry, and also wildlife.

The Master Plan acknowledges that a considerable amount of work has got to happen and sets up a number of working groups to “define strategies and activities that could help members engage effectively in offshore wind energy development.” One proposal involves a workshop with leading marine scientists who will convene to assess marine ecosystem protections, develop best working practices and consider the creation of a fund to enable the projects to go ahead while providing adequate support for the environment.

2018 promises to be the year that offshore wind came into its own in the US. Around 13 leases have been secured already for development on the East Coast. The Cuomo site is just south of Empire Wind, the 79.000-acre wind farm planned by Statoil. Expectations are this will be working by 2024. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has declared he wants to achieve 3500 MW of offshore power by 2030.

But 2018 also came with promises for the traditional energy providers. Trump is powerless to resist the lure of the known benefits of oil and gas drilling, and the start of the year came with the intention that nearly the entire US coast would be opened up for fossil fuel drilling. The move would see more than 90% of the outer continental shelf available in nearly 50 lease sales – the first time drilling could take place off the Atlantic seaboard. Announcing the public consultation into the plan, Ryan Zinke the Secretary of the Interior, said: “We want to grow our nation’s offshore energy industry, instead of slowly surrendering it to foreign shores. This is a clear difference between energy weakness and energy dominance. Under president Trump, we’re going to have the strongest energy policies and be the strongest energy superpower.”

Not everyone has welcomed this. New York and New Jersey have both asked the US Department of the Interior for exemptions from that drilling plan.

Gov. Cuomo said: “While the federal government continues to turn its back on protecting natural resources and plots to open up our coastline to drilling, New York is doubling down on our commitment to renewable energy and the industries of tomorrow.