Governor Cuomo signs new climate act into law

Andrew Cummings
July 20, 2019

NY has signed the biggest-ever deals for offshore wind power in US history, a key part of the state's plan to get all of its power from emissions-free sources by 2040.

"Being selected in this highly competitive field of bidders shows the confidence that NY leadership has in Equinor's capabilities of developing large offshore energy projects, delivering affordable renewable energy while also providing significant economic benefits locally". The United States now has just one small offshore wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island that is also owned by Orsted, but larger projects are being developed both there and elsewhere in the Northeast. Even in today's chaos of political pandering and hyperbole there are still facts, data and evidence - and climate change is an undeniable scientific fact.

But even as NY steps on the gas pedal for wind power, federal regulators may be applying the brake in southern New England.

Combined, both projects will total 1,700 MW, enough to power more than one million NY homes and support an estimated 1,600 jobs with a combined economy activity of $3.2 billion statewide. But cries for a new green movement are hollow political rhetoric if not combined with aggressive goals and a realistic plan on how to achieve them. "Today we are true to the NY legacy - to lead the way forward, to govern with vision and intelligence, to set a new standard, and to match our words with action".

"A total of $287 million will be invested in cutting-edge infrastructure in multiple regions of the state, including the Capital Region, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Long Island", the governor's office stated. More broadly, Equinor is committed to developing the nation's first offshore wind supply chain to support the construction, installation and operation of offshore wind projects.

Solar panels on every roof; parking meters that double as auto chargers; wind turbines towering above farm fields and ocean waves; cars, homes and factories converted to run on electricity from renewable sources. "These investments will particularly benefit New York's low-income and environmental justice communities", the announcement said.

Excluding subsidies, the cost of offshore wind power have plunged 64% since 2012 to a global average of $89 a megawatt-hour past year, according to BloombergNEF.

Alicia Barton, NYSERDA President and CEO said, "Today, Governor Cuomo solidified New York's clean energy and climate leadership status with the single greatest commitment to offshore wind by a state in USA history". Importantly, implementation of the CLCPA will target investments to benefit disadvantaged communities, create tens of thousands of new jobs, improve public health and quality of life and provide all New Yorkers with more robust clean energy choices.

A new 22-member New York State Climate Action Council will have three years to recommend mandates, regulations, incentives and other measures. But they're key pieces of the development of not just projects, but the United States offshore wind industry as a whole. That proposal comes from Norwegian energy giant Equinor, which owns the only current wind energy lease area in the New York Bight area.

This act now requires an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

But while the goals are clear, many details on how to achieve them have yet to be determined.

The award remains subject to the execution of the OREC purchase and sale agreement, which Equinor looks forward to finalizing together with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the developer said.

The fishing industry and some environmental groups are pushing on a number of issues around the project, including safe vessel transit lanes through the arrays, and potential effects on wildlife - especially the extremely endangered North Atlantic right whales that feed and migrate in the area, and now number just over 400 surviving animals.

"These are high-quality wind sites, evidenced by the almost 50% capacity factors the projects are advertising".

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