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Offshore Wind Lease Auction Blows Old Record Out of the Water

The three easternmost areas (0520, 0521, and 0522) sold today for a collective $405 million. Map: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
What a difference a few years and visionary leadership can make. This morning, developers finished 32 rounds of bidding on areas of federal waters off the coast of Massachusetts designated for offshore wind power development. The three areas drew a collective total of just over $405 million. Moving from west to east, the winning bidders are Equinor Wind, Mayflower Wind Energy, and Vineyard Wind, with bids of $135 million, $135 million, and $135.1 million, respectively.
The federal government has been holding offshore wind energy auctions since 2013, and in early 2015 offered this same portion of the ocean for auction… but there were no bidders. Until today, the highest bid on an offshore wind energy area was $42 million, for an area off of New York that Equinor (formerly Statoil) won just two years ago.
Zero to hundreds of millions in four years– what happened?!
What has changed to spike such intense competition? Quite a bit, actually. Despite the fact that the U.S. has yet to get a single offshore wind turbine built in federal waters (the nation’s only five turbines stand in Rhode Island state waters), globally speaking the offshore wind industry is booming – and has been growing for decades. The U.S. Atlantic Coast is prime for offshore wind development; it’s home to plenty of demand for power, a strong and consistent wind resource, and a gradually sloping outer continental shelf essential for fixing turbines to the seafloor.
Offshore wind developers worldwide have had an eye on this part of the planet for quite some time – while eagerly awaiting a shift in the political climate.
Back in 2015, while thousands of offshore wind turbines operated to great success around the globe, decision-makers in the U.S. were still grappling with whether to support the concept. There was some policy progress in the Mid-Atlantic, but not a single Northeast state had made a large-scale commitment to offshore wind power development. Massachusetts’s Cape Wind project had just lost its utility contracts after over a decade of legal battles with deep-pocketed opponents unwilling to share Nantucket Sound with wind turbines, and the few developers willing to take the gamble on U.S. development had already acquired a handful of other lease areas – stretching any thinner with such uncertainty would have been tough to justify.
The Block Island Wind Farm is currently America’s only offshore wind power project – five turbines in Rhode Island State Waters. Photo: NWF
Since then, the U.S. offshore wind story has turned from a crawl to a full sprint. The Block Island Wind Farm is up and running, demonstrating what these feats of engineering are capable of: replacing fossil fuel-fired power plants and providing clean, domestic power right when and where we need it most. MassachusettsNew York, and New Jersey have made assertive commitments to develop enough offshore wind power for hundreds of thousands of homes apiece. MassachusettsNew YorkRhode Island, and Connecticut are advancing specific project contracts. It’s a new day for offshore wind power in the Northeast. The opportunity is here and now, and developers are vying to get in the game.
“This historic auction clearly demonstrates investor confidence in America’s offshore wind market, thanks to the leadership of states like Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey that have set long term, large scale commitments to finally bring this critically needed climate solution online… The National Wildlife Federation applauds the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for a successful auction and congratulates Equinor Wind, Mayflower Wind Energy and Vineyard Wind for securing these new leases. Looking forward, we will continue to work with all leaseholders to ensure that coastal and marine wildlife are protected throughout every stage of the offshore wind development process.” -- Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation (See full statement here.)
What's Next?
There’s still a long way to go from here. Developers now need to learn the details of their areas, design projects, secure power contracts and an extensive number of permits, and much more. There are public comment periods every step of the way, and ample opportunity to raise and work through concerns.
The National Wildlife Federation looks forward to working with these new lease holders to ensure that wildlife and habitat will be protected throughout every stage of surveying and development. We will continue to advocate for the swift and responsible development of offshore wind power, and we hope you will join us in speaking up for this important clean energy solution. Offshore wind power can play a key role in transforming our energy profile into one we can be proud of – and it will take all of us pushing in that direction to ensure we seize the opportunity closer to our grasp than ever before.

NY Is Officially in the Offshore Wind Arena

NY Is Officially in the Offshore Wind Arena

By Joe Martens

After years of study and planning, New York State has made good on Governor Cuomo’s promise to pursue at least 800 MW of offshore wind in 2018 and 2019. Last week, the New York Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) released a request for proposals for 800 MW or more of offshore wind. The RFP is the culmination of a deliberative process that started with a Blueprint for Offshore Wind published in the fall of 2016, followed by the release in January 2018 of a NYS Offshore Wind Master Plan, followed by a Public Service Commission Order issued in August.  

To its credit, NYSERDA and its sister agencies have engaged stakeholders at every stage of the process and continue to refine the offshore wind program through the formation of four technical working groups covering environment, fisheries, ports and infrastructure, and jobs and supply chain. 

I serve on the Environmental Technical Working Group (E-TWG), which kicked off a two-day “State of the Science” workshop on wildlife and offshore wind energy development on Long Island this past week. The workshop was attended by well over 100 people, including experts from Europe, where there are now 91 offshore wind farms in operation. The workshop examined current research on the potential impacts to marine mammals, birds, bats, and more. Participants identified data gaps, research needs, and discussed how to prioritize the work that should be done to ensure that the offshore wind industry is developed responsibly with the least amount of environmental impact. 

Next up, NYSERDA is hosting a “Suppliers Forum” in New York City to ensure that information about offshore wind supply chain is broadcast far and wide and offshore wind-related businesses are connected to offshore wind developers in an effort to maximize the amount of New York vendors in this burgeoning industry. NYSERDA estimates that offshore wind development will employ some 5,000 people and generate some $6 billion in economic activity, making this Suppliers Forum very timely.

And finally, later this month, the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management will hold a Renewable Energy Task Force meeting to discuss its proposed Wind Energy Area in the New York Bight.  BOEM is proposing a dramatically reduced area for potential lease, causing concerns about whether it is adequate to ensure robust competition and large enough to meet the offshore wind goals of New York and New Jersey.  Stay tuned for more on this.

Post-election Review: Unprecedented change - and opportunity - in the NYS Legislature

Post-election Review: Unprecedented change – and opportunity – in the NYS Legislature

Posted on November 8, 2018

By Jeff Jones

With heavy spending by the oil and gas industry, ballot initiatives promoting renewable energy and supporting climate projects went down to defeat in Washington, Colorado, and Arizona. Whether or not there was a Blue Wave can be debated in other parts of the country. But not in New York. Powered by Gov. Cuomo’s strong re-election success at the top of the ticket, Democrats took firm control of every level of state government, winning all four state-wide races, holding on to Kirsten Gillibrand’s US Senate seat, taking over the majority in the state Senate and holding firm in the Assembly. Of these, the most significant change is in the state Senate. Even the best pre-election speculation gave the Dems a chance of picking up one or two seats. That they now hold an 8-seat majority is unprecedented in anyone’s memory. It means, among other things, that they can, if they choose, move an aggressive agenda across a range of issues.

At ACE NY, we are asking: What will this mean for renewable energy and energy efficiency policy in New York?

It is reasonable to expect growing support for renewables and almost any concrete initiatives that are linked to combatting climate change. Longstanding relations between traditionally fossil-fuel friendly utilities, independent power producers and Senate Republicans are suddenly without consequence. Many of the newly elected members, coming from metropolitan areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy, included action on climate change in their campaign agendas. They were also universally in sync with the Governor in standing in opposition to President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords. And on Long Island, long a bastion of upper house Republican power, the Democrats now control six of the nine Senate seats. This does not mean that an organized and clear climate agenda is part of the incoming Majority’s agenda. Their initial focus looks to be on health care, ethics reform, and voter access. Even marijuana legalization was higher up on the electoral agenda. But the door will quickly open for serious support for renewable energy (and offshore wind on Long Island) and energy efficiency legislation.

Upstate, the NIMBY problems that have plagued the siting of utility-scale wind and solar projects will not go away. But two newly elected Senate Democrats, from the Hudson Valley and Syracuse, are active clean energy advocates. Jennifer Metzger, who won the 42nd District seat held by the retiring John Bonacic, has been a mid-Hudson Valley leader of community solar and other local clean energy programs for years. And Rachel May, who defeated Independent Democratic Conference member David Valesky and went on to win the District 53 seat, attended the 2nd Climate Solutions Summit, co-sponsored by ACE NY last May in Syracuse. With support from environmental organizations and the renewable energy industry, these two newcomers can become strong voices for the clean energy agenda.

Individual Senators will still echo local opposition to utility scale wind and solar projects, and this will remain an important area for ACE NY to monitor. They can even introduce bills, thanks to reforms enacted by the Senate Democrats during their brief and chaotic majority ten years ago. But, given the strong relation between the incoming Senate Majority and the Governor, we can hope for a  more favorable political environment in the Capital.  Both supporters and developers of renewable energy took heart from expressions by Governor staff members at the October ACE NY annual conference, undertaking to move projects more quickly through the Article X siting process. It also means that the Assembly will now, for the first time in a decade, be considering clean energy legislation that has a chance of passage in the Senate. This could be a game-changer

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Feds Should Align with NYS on Offshore Wind Areas

Feds Should Align with NYS on Offshore Wind Areas

By Joe Martens

New York State filed extensive comments with the federal Bureau of Offshore Energy Management (BOEM) late last month and Gov. Cuomo personally called on US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to “play a significant role in the success story.” (read story here).

 New York’s comments, which were echoed by NYOWA, urge BOEM to look closely at the extensive data and information submitted by New York State and to adjust the boundaries of the proposed Call Area to more closely align with New York’s “Area for Consideration.”

 “Now is the time for offshore wind,” Gov. Cuomo says in his letter to Secretary Zinke. “In New York, we have a unique opportunity to develop offshore wind and achieve our ambitious clean energy goals. I urge you to support our efforts and help us protect our environment for future generations.”

 The Governor could not have been more emphatic and robust in his support for offshore wind and in expressing the state’s willingness to collaborate with the federal government to make it work.

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2018 American Wind Week

2018 American Wind Week

Posted on August 7, 2018

By Erin Landy

Sunday kicked off the 2nd Annual American Wind Week (August 5-11)! Supporters of wind energy across the U.S. launched American Wind Week last year when wind power became the country’s largest source of renewable energy capacity. Today, that leadership is growing with a record amount of wind power under construction at wind farms across America.

U.S. Wind Leadership

We can keep our lead in wind power because inexhaustible wind energy is a resource the U.S. can always harness. A typical new wind turbine in the U.S. can power the equivalent of more than 750 average homes. U.S. wind turbines are the most productive among countries with the highest levels of installed wind power, like China and Germany. 

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NY Anti-Wind Bill Could Hurt Clean Energy Economy

NY Anti-Wind Bill Could Hurt Clean Energy Economy

Posted on March 20, 2018

Re-posted from the NRDC Expert Blog

By Sneha Ayyagari and Jackson Morris

The New York State Assembly should reject Assembly Bill A.9053A, which would unfairly prohibit state funding for wind power facilities in six large areas near the Fort Drum military reservation in Jefferson County, New York. This bill is completely unnecessary to protecting national security and guaranteeing the continued vitality of the Fort Drum military base. If passed, A.9053A would hinder progress on clean energy goals, and kill clean energy jobs, without providing any benefits. A group of veterans have submitted a letter urging the Assembly to reject the bill, which is currently in Assembly Committee.

The bill is completely unnecessary

The asserted purpose of A. 9053A is to prevent wind projects from conflicting with military operations at Fort Drum. But there are already robust federal and state procedures to ensure that wind projects are appropriately sited to align with the secure operation and mission readiness at military bases like Fort Drum. The Department of Defense (DoD), through its Siting Clearinghouse, rigorously evaluates the risks of projects. By law, the Department of Defense has the authority to determine whether a project poses a risk to national security, either in isolation or cumulatively with other projects. So far, no wind projects have been built over the objection of the DoD. As the Department of Defense stated to  Congress in 2015, “generic standoff distance are not useful” and “due to the wide variety of missions and variability of impacts on different types of obstructions, it is not possible to apply a ‘one-size-fits-all’ standoff distance between DOD military readiness activities and development projects.”

NRDC has worked with the DoD to develop the Renewable Energy And Defense Geospatial Database to help developers identify potential conflicts early in the project development process. This is yet another tool that ensures that projects are carefully reviewed on a case-by-case basis to safeguard national security. At the state level, the Article 10siting law provides additional processes for evaluating the impacts of renewable energy projects.

The bill impedes achieving clean energy goals

Especially as the Trump administration continues to try to roll back environmental protections, it is more important than ever that New York State continue to show leadership through its climate policy. This bill could make it difficult to reach targets such as generating 50 percent of electric generation from renewable sources and reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030. Fostering land-based wind development is a critical component of installing enough renewable energy at the pace needed to realize Governor Cuomo’s clean energy vision. Beyond halting projects near Fort Drum, this bill sends a bad message, and bolsters opponents of renewable energy projects which will negatively impact investment in wind energy in other areas of New York going forward.

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Just for the record...

Just for the record…

Posted on February 26, 2018

By Joe Martens, Director of 
New York Offshore Wind Alliance

Some of you may have seen the recent missive in the New York Post from conservative writer and punditRobert Bryce regarding Gov. Cuomo’s ambitious and smart plans for offshore wind in New York. (Read NYOWA’s statement on that here, but finish reading this blog post first!).

Last week I sent the newspaper a letter to the editor, which I’m guessing they’ve decided not to run. So we’re putting it here on the blog so that Bryce’s comments don’t go unaddressed. Here’s what we sent the Post:

To the editor:

Once again, Robert Bryce ignores the facts about offshore wind (“Cuomo’s latest green-power fiasco” Feb. 2, 2018).  First, he claims that NY’s plan to develop 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030 is twice as much capacity as exists in all of Denmark.  He didn’t mention that England has more than 5,000 MW of installed capacity and Europe collectively installed 3,100 MW of offshore wind capacity in 2017 alone.

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Slanted GateHouse Media Story Omits Most People's Experience of Life Near Wind Farms

Slanted GateHouse Media story omits most people’s experience of life near wind farms

Re-posted from In to the Wind: The AWEA Blog 

If all you knew about the beach was what you saw in the movie “Jaws,” you’d never go. Yet 58 million Americans a year go to the shore. 

Context matters. And that’s exactly what is lacking in a recent report by GateHouse Media (In the Shadow of Wind Farms) that amplifies the complaints of a small number of the millions of Americans living near wind farms, while downplaying the vast majority who welcome the benefits of a new cash crop for rural America. 

GateHouse appears to have set out to write a negative story about wind energy. First their reporter probed the idea that foreign companies were buying up American cropland. (They aren’t. Farmers keep their land and get lease income.) GateHouse then was fed anecdotal reports by opponents of wind farms online, while declining multiple offers to interview people satisfied with their local wind farm. 

For nearly six months, both AWEA and wind developers responded to pointed questions and offered much-needed context to the GateHouse reporters. When offered positive accounts of wind farms in rural America, however, we were told they wouldn’t be included because the story of positive experiences had already been written.

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In the Shadow of Wind Farms

In the Shadow of Wind Farms

Words can fuel perceived health impacts of wind turbines

Re-posted from Into the Wind: The AWEA Blog

Do you have sores on your feet? Is your hair turning grey? You may live near a wind turbine. Or at least that’s what certain stories you can find on the Internet would have you believe – that wind turbines cause health problems. In reality, tens of millions of people comfortably live near wind projects around the globe with no ill effects, as shown in testimonials which can also be seen online.

In the U.S. alone, 20 million people live in counties with wind turbines. And 25 scientific reviews since 2003 back up their safety. That doesn’t mean that a few people don’t complain about living near wind turbines, but a new book sheds light on what’s behind many of those complaints.

Simon Chapman, emeritus professor of Public Health at The University of Sydney, has just published an important and well-timed book. In “Wind Turbine Syndrome – a communicated disease,” Chapman and his co-author Fiona Crichton focus on noise and health objections to wind farms in Australia. The findings are relevant to the U.S., as anti-wind energy groups are increasingly employing scare tactics to misinform the public. That misinformation can cause real anxiety and worry, and it isn’t fair to the people affected.

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