The largest offshore wind farm in the U.S. is now one step closer to being constructed off the Long Island/Rockaway coast. Until recently, a natural gas port had been proposed for the same section of ocean. Surprising many, Governor Cuomo vetoed -and effectively killed- the gas project last month.

Less than a year ago, the Cuomo administration banned high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York as a means to extract natural gas. Similar to the debate on fracking, public opposition to the gas port became part of a larger discussion about New York State’s energy policy and how the state should respond to climate change.

The proposed wind farm is certainly in keeping with the state’s goal of cutting carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. The farm could create enough electricity to power an estimated 245,000 homes. To do that, almost 200 3.6-megawatt wind turbines -yielding as much as 700 MW of energy- will be constructed 13 miles off the Rockaway Peninsula.

A Lengthy Process

The wind farm, also known as the Long Island – New York City Offshore Wind Project, has been working its way through a multi-year federal review process.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is currently in the Area Identification stage of the review, during which the agency selects off-shore areas for environmental analysis and consideration for leasing. That process will be completed by early next year said agency spokeswoman Tracey Moriarty.

In June, BOEM cancelled four public open houses (in Brooklyn, Long Island and New Jersey) in which it planned to share the results of a recently completed “visualization” study for the project. The purpose of the open houses was to get feedback from local residents on specific locations for the wind farm.

Helicopter lowering a worker onto an offshore wind turbine in the UK. Credit: National Geographic Stock / Sarah Leen / WWF

Those public meetings won’t be rescheduled, Moriarty told NYER before Thanksgiving, but BOEM will be posting the schematics on its website and welcomes comments and questions from the public. Moriarty could not state exactly when the visualization study will go live, but said it was imminent.

Will the Public Be Weighing In?

There will be other opportunities for the public to comment on the proposed wind farm, Moriarty stated. There are several major stages of review ahead. Moriarty added that the agency was focused on taking all of the various uses for the off-shore area, such as commercial fishing and freight delivery, into consideration.

The wind farm will be located in federal waters, hence BOEM’s management of the process. The state of New York will most likely be purchasing the power. Con Edison, the Long Island Power Authority and the New York Power Authority have formed a public-private partnership to advance the project.

Dayle Zatlin, a spokeswoman for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, told NYER this summer that the state wanted “to be able to talk to the federal government about all the ways that it [the wind farm] will impact New York [e.g., jobs, environment, and visual impacts] before we do public hearings.”

  • karen orlando

    From your headline I might have thought something happened in the wind farm process with BOEM. However no step actually occurred upon reading the article. Let me know if I’m mistaken. Newsday reported the process may take many more years.

    You know that a conspiracy theory that port ambrose was for export was part of the antifracking activism on Port Ambrose. Since the potential for conflict with the windfarm wasalways a real question deserving attention why do you think the activists chose to lie instead of focusing on something of substance?

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  • Sarah Crean

    Hi Karen- Happy Holidays! Yes, this process is going to take a long time- several years. We’ve been asked by readers in the last few weeks what is happening with the wind farm, hence my post. And precisely because it is such a long process, I periodically check in with the feds to make sure it’s still happening. The headline refers to the fact that there are no longer two energy projects proposed for the same area. This means that there is one less factor to be addressed as the project is reviewed. In the long run, this will help to facilitate the process. And that is worth noting.

    In terms of the export angle on Port Ambrose, it certainly was an issue that was raised by some activists. I can’t tell you why they were so focused on it other than they seemed to think they had evidence it was a concern. As we reported, the developers of Port Ambrose stated the project was not for export. Governor Cuomo as you know cited other reasons for vetoing Port Ambrose.

    The question now is how long the wind farm will take to be developed.