Almost 200 3.6-megawatt wind turbines may eventually be constructed 13 miles off the Rockaway Peninsula. Described as what could be the largest offshore wind farm in the United States, the Long Island – New York City Offshore Wind Project is working its way through a multi-year federal review process.
The wind farm could yield as much as 700 MW of energy—enough electricity to power an estimated 245,000 homes.
The project is a collaborative effort between Con Edison, the Long Island Power Authority, and the New York Power Authority. LIPA submitted the proposal to federal regulators in September, 2011.
To date, no wind farms have been constructed in U.S. federal waters (more than three nautical miles off-shore). But several projects are grinding toward execution. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has issued seven commercial leases for offshore wind farms. Several other wind projects are now in the initial review stages.
Plans for wind farms in state-managed coastal waters are also underway. A competitive auction for possible developers of a wind demonstration project off the New Jersey coast is to be held on January 29th, a BOEM spokesperson said.
A Plan for Our Coastal Waters
As the Rockaway wind farm project is being reviewed, a full-scale comprehensive planning effort for the mid-Atlantic coastline is underway. Government regulators and advocacy groups say that the wide array of potentially competing uses in coastal waters—from commercial fishing to energy projects to military exercises to tourism—requires more public direction.
Public meetings regarding how best to manage New York’s coastal waters, and those of neighboring states, are taking place this week in Manhattan’s Javits Center. The meetings are led by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean, a partnership of the state governments of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.
Could a Rockaway Wind Farm be Commercially Viable?
Developing a major wind farm off the coast of New York City is not seen as far-fetched by the private sector. Tracey Moriarty, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, told NYER that other potential wind farm developers have expressed interest in the site off the Rockaways.
“Wind has transitioned from an expensive green energy propped up by legislative support to a bona fide player that competes shoulder-to-shoulder with gas and coal for large generation projects,” noted a March, 2014 article in Business Insider.
“If natural gas prices go up any faster, wind power may even run at a discount to all major generation sources by 2018,” BI concluded.
And the Rockaway wind farm may even be able to out-compete other New York State wind projects.
“An offshore wind facility of this size has distinct advantages over inland options,” says the Con-Ed, LIPA, NYPA collaborative. Off-shore wind power will ultimately be cheaper and more reliable than wind power generated upstate, they say.
“In contrast to land-based wind facilities in remote regions of the state, ocean-based wind power is stronger, more consistently available, and can be situated closer to Long Island and New York City,” the collaborative notes.
“Land-based wind power availability tends to diminish during the hottest part of a summer day, which is precisely the time that Long Island, New York City and Westchester customers use the most electricity.”
A Long Way to Go
The Rockaway wind project is intended to help New York State reach its goal of meeting 45 percent of its electricity needs through improved energy efficiency and renewable sources by 2015. According to BOEM spokeswoman Tracey Moriarty, the project still has a long way to go.
The Rockaway wind farm is at the beginning of a four-step process.
First, BOEM must conduct a preliminary environmental review of the potential impacts of a wind farm in the proposed ocean site. The public will be able to submit comments as part of the review.
Second, a lease to develop the wind farm in federal waters is issued to the winner of a competitive auction process.
Third, a site assessment plan is developed, which involves the collection of more information (e.g., wind speed data, biological data) about the area proposed for development.
And finally, the wind farm’s developer submits a construction and operations plan. BOEM must then carry out a full environmental review of the project.
Moriarty said that BOEM is now completing an “Area ID” (i.e., identifying the Wind Energy Area). This is a necessary step before they can even begin the preliminary environmental review.
Balancing Renewable & Fossil Fuel Energy Projects Off the New York Coast
As the Rockaway wind farm review moves forward, the New York coast is also being examined as a possible site for a liquid natural gas facility. Liberty Natural Gas and West Face Capital have proposed to build a deepwater port in federal waters approximately 19 miles from the New York shore.
The facility, Port Ambrose, would consist of a submerged buoy system, which its developers say would be used to receive natural gas deliveries from the Caribbean.
In a June, 2014 letter to BOEM, Liberty argued that the two projects could co-exist. “Liberty believes that with proper siting and mitigation measures in place, one or more wind farms can be developed in the Call Area near Port Ambrose,” the company wrote.
“The minimum navigation requirements for Port Ambrose will total less than 4% of the 127 square mile Call Area, providing approximately 122 square miles of space for wind farm development,” they maintained.