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Offshore wind in the New York Bight- substantial headwinds

NY offshore wind faces obstacles: Gov. Hochul's veto, Equinor's Empire Wind project, and environmental concerns.

Recent developments in New York provide an up-close  insight into some of the difficulties facing offshore wind. In recent months, the push towards “30 by 30” (the Biden administration’s goal of 30 gW by 2030) has seen headwinds in the form of price inflation (with multiple power purchase agreements being cancelled) and environmental concerns (with whale strikes blamed on survey activity). Recently regulatory action by the Governor of New York will set back the plans of Equinor’s  Empire Wind project, a partnership with BP. There have been rumblings, all unconfirmed, that Equinor might cancel the project- where up to 130 turbines, generating as much as 2.1 gW of electricity could be installed in the “New York Bight”- roughly 15 to 30 miles south of Long Island.

In the latest development, Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed a legislative bill that would have eliminated a number of regulatory barriers concerning transmission cabling that would come ashore at Long Beach, on Long Island’s “South Shore” (well known to mariners as it is adjacent to the Ambrose Anchorage serving vessels calling on ports in New York and New Jersey). The veto comes only days after a decision by the New York Public Service Commission (the Empire State’s main regulator of utilities) rejecting proposed amendments to previously agreed power purchase agreements that would have increased the costs to electricity consumers. New York State has made a substantial commitment to replace fossil fuel electricity generation with renewables.

The veto came amidst controversies surrounding the beach- which is officially considered as park-land. Legislation passed earlier this year, within a larger bill, would have allowed electrical cabling to pass through a parcel on the beach. At the time, representatives from Long Beach objected; but they did not win out. Now, the Governor, weighing the political winds (with Elections now two weeks away), has vetoed the legislation. The Governor, Kathy Hochul, stated that: “It is incumbent on renewable energy developers to cultivate and maintain strong ties to their host communities throughout the planning, siting and operation of all large-scale projects.” She added that: “Here, the City Council of Long Beach, the host community for the wind power project, has made clear that while it supports the State’s efforts to transition from the use of fossil fuels, it would not support or authorize any alienation of parkland in furtherance of this project.”