By Vivica Michel
State and local officials held a press conference on April 3, in Port Jefferson Harbor, backing a proposal to build an offshore wind hub in the village that will supply up to 500,000 homes with electricity, making it the nation’s biggest offshore wind hub.
The offshore wind “hub” will be located 30 miles from Montauk Point, but will use Port Jefferson as its base of operations. Orsted, a Danish energy company, and Eversource, a Massachusetts-based energy company, teamed up to propose the hub.
“Here on Long Island, only five percent of the island uses renewable energy, however this is about to change with offshore wind energy,” Gordian Raacke, the Executive Director of Renewable Energy Long Island, said. “Long Island’s biggest potential source of renewable energy is offshore wind.”
This bid is one of many that are part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Green New Deal”, proposing that New York transition to rely on 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2040. To help reach that goal, Gov. Cuomo allocated $200 million to offshore wind alone.
“Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposed Green New Deal, a nation-leading clean energy and jobs agenda, which includes both a call for 70 percent of New York’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030 and 9,000 MW of offshore wind energy by 2035,” Aron Ashrafioun, the communications manager of New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, said. “This offshore wind goal alone can power up to 6 million New York homes.”
Climate change advocates, however, are doubting the effects of the 100 percent renewable energy plans.
“Carbon dioxide can last over 100 years and will continue to stay in the ozone layer, warming everything even with zero percent emissions,” Peter Wirth, a volunteer for Climate Change Awareness and Action, said.
In Europe, offshore wind farms have started since the early 1990s. Denmark developed their first offshore wind farm in 1991.
“Europe currently has 18.5 GW of offshore wind,” Andrew Canning, the press and communication manager of Wind Europe, said. “Europe has 105 offshore wind farms and 4,500 turbines providing 40,000 jobs. Offshore wind is two percent of the EU’s electricity, but this is set to grow significantly in the coming years.”
South Fork have also set their own goal of being 100 percent renewable after Public Service Enterprise Group and Long Island Power Authority requested to have proposals sent to combat the growing power needs of the town. Deepwater Wind, a company that specializes in offshore wind, teamed up with Orsted to develop a wind farm that will include 15 wind turbines offshore and onshore in South Fork. Construction for this project is expected to begin in 2021.
“Offshore wind provides great economic development opportunities for the ports where the turbines will be assembled and then shipped out to the wind farms in the ocean. There will be thousands of good jobs in construction, dock work, manufacturing, transportation and assembly onsite,” William O’Hearn, Communications and Outreach Manager of the Business Network for Offshore Wind, said.
Although these offshore wind farms are going to cut down on carbon emissions, some people are not pleased with the proposals.
“Some concerns are commercial fishermen losing their fishing grounds,” O’Hearn said. “Environmentalists are worried about birds, fish, turtles and marine mammals, and big ships having to navigate past the wind farms. We also have to watch our upfront costs, which is a concern of utility ratepayers, although we believe wind farms save ratepayers money in the long run.”
A study published in 2015 by the Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management researches the effects of offshore wind farms on oceans. In their findings, they reported that, “As respondents offered their input on possible impacts to particular species or groups in these WEAs, they often also made a direct connection between anticipated biological impacts and likely changes in the physical environment that will be brought about by offshore wind energy development.”
Local fishermen on Long Island are protesting the offshore wind farms, out of concern with the ocean floor being directly affected by the construction of the wind farms.
“With the building of offshore wind farms, fishermen who regularly fish in these areas will be deeply affected,” Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, said. “The construction alone will cause much disturbance to the fishes’ habitat, which will mean that fishermen will most likely have to relocate.”
Developers of offshore wind farms have taken this into consideration and have a plan.
“Offshore wind is intimidating to the fisherman who are afraid of the economic effects on their businesses, but offshore wind developers have included funding for retaining many displaced workers,” Marjaneh Issapour, director of Renewable Energy and Sustainability Center at Farmingdale State College, said.
New York State Energy Research and Development, NYSERDA, is in charge of choosing the winning bid for the offshore wind farm that will be invested as part of Gov. Cuomo’s “Green New Deal” within the next month.