New York City

Offshore wind farms coming soon to NY coast

March 17, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The federal government has designated an offshore area less than 20 miles southeast of Brooklyn to lease to companies operating wind turbines.  Photo courtesy of the Long Island-New York City Offshore Wind Project

Area designated less than 20 miles from Brooklyn; Calls for buffer zone to prevent collisions

The slim, swift blades of wind turbines are one step closer to New York waters.

The federal government has designated an offshore area less than 20 miles southeast of Brooklyn to lease to companies operating the turbines.

The wedge-shaped Wind Energy Area (WEA) would be located in federal waters about eleven miles south of Long Beach, Long Island, on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

While visible from Long Beach, the distant turbines would likely be invisible from ground level along Brooklyn’s shoreline, blocked in part by the Rockaway Peninsula.

The U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is collecting comments about designation, the first for New York State waters. After the comments are evaluated, developers of offshore wind will have the opportunity to purchase a lease and development rights.

Officially designated the Long Island-New York City Offshore Wind Project, the turbines would generate at least 350 megawatts of electricity for Long Island and the city. This is enough electricity to power an estimated 245,000 homes, according to a release from BOEM, though the wattage could potentially double.

Partners include Con Edison, Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and New York Power Authority (NYPA).

Anne Reynolds, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York, said in a statement on Wednesday, “This is a crucial step in pursuit of offshore wind energy for New York State . . . The offshore wind industry is critical to the ultimate success of Gov. Cuomo’s call for the generation of 50 percent of New York’s energy from renewable sources by 2030.”

Many environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club and National Wildlife Federation, hailed the designation as a move towards clean, renewable energy, and applauded Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s veto of another energy-related project, the proposed Port Ambrose Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) terminal.

The designation was also praised as opening the door to a variety of new, environmentally sound jobs.

“Scaling up well-sited offshore wind energy development isn’t just good for our environment – it also expands the economy and creates good jobs for New Yorkers,” said Bob Keefe, executive director of the national business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2).

Questions remain about fisheries, shipping lanes, radar systems

A number of entities expressed caution, however. In its comment to BOEM, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) noted that the area in question is a habitat for roughly 35 important fish species and is the site of significant fisheries. NOAA called for an expanded assessment before proceeding with the leases.

In a similar vein, David Frulla of the Fisheries Survival Fund, which represents permit holders in the Atlantic scallop fishery, commented to BOEM that the group “strongly objects to the leasing of submerged lands that overlap lucrative scallop beds.”

The group said BOEM had failed to adequately evaluate the impact the project will have on the region’s fisheries, and asked BOEM to remove more than a dozen lease blocks from consideration for leasing.

The National Ocean Service also has objections. In its comments to BOEM, the agency highlighted the location of high frequency radars supporting the U.S. as part of the Integrated Ocean Observing System.

“There are 11 high frequency radars in New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island that will be negatively impacted to some degree or another by wind turbines situated offshore Long Island. This would result in a loss of coastal radar monitoring for 100 miles of the NY, NJ, RI coasts,” NOS commented. 

Significantly, the shipping industry has also expressed grave concerns. Douglas Schneider of the World Shipping Council (WSC), which represents more than 29 shipping companies that operate upwards of 5,000 ocean-going container vessels, commented that WSC has filed multiple submissions with BOEM noting “the critical need for wind energy projects to be sited a safe distance from areas of high-density commercial vessel traffic.”

The proposed wind lease area is situated between two principal shipping channels out of New York Harbor: the outbound Ambrose to Nantucket traffic lane and the inbound Hudson Canyon to Ambrose traffic lane.

The proposed WEA would almost completely occupy the space between these two busy traffic channels, Schneider says. To reduce the risk of collision between vessels and what is termed allision between vessels and fixed wind turbines, two-mile buffer zones must be established, he wrote.

“Allowing the placement of wind farms too close to maritime traffic areas would risk the safe navigation of vessels carrying America’s waterborne commerce and could result in a massive environmental disaster,” Schneider said. “The environmental costs and damage of a single allision between a ship and a wind turbine, as well as the potential loss of life and property, could easily exceed any benefits of siting wind turbines in the area.”

The City of New York supports the project, saying it would make a substantial contribution to the city’s energy needs, but urges BOEM to “exercise extreme prudence” in awarding the leases.  Michael Delaney, writing for the Office of the Mayor, called for buffer zones around the shipping channels and turbines.