During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the New York State legislature passed a bill that gave the New York State government more authority than ever over approvals for large-scale wind and solar energy projects, essentially silencing the interests of local citizens and the governments they elect to represent them. Local officials and residents are upset because companies have applied in every county in Western New York to cover thousands of acres of land with solar panels or wind turbines. Farmers are worried about their livelihood because farms could be turned into solar and wind farms, despite hunger being a world problem they believe should have priority. Upstate forests, which absorb carbon dioxide, are being sacrificed, making them into solar and wind facilities.
The law passed in April abolishes siting boards, which included two residents from a community affected by a project. Instead, a new state agency, the Office of Renewable Energy Siting, will rule on renewable energy applications. In 2019, New York State established a law that 70 percent of the state’s electricity must come from renewable sources by 2030 and electric power production must be 100 percent carbon-free by 2040. The new state law overrides any local law if the new office considers it “unreasonably burdensome in view of the targets and the environmental benefits of the proposed major renewable energy facility.” And, according to the law, if the new office does not make a ruling within one year of the completion of an application, the project’s permit “shall be deemed to have been automatically granted.” This means state bureaucrats can simply sit on their hands for a year and the permits will be granted.
Offshore Wind Farms
The new law could also mean that there would be no local control over proposals for offshore wind turbines in Lake Erie, Lake Ontario or offshore Long Island. Offshore wind will be needed because there is no way to meet the state’s targets without large-scale wind and solar projects, despite their enormous costs to consumers.
A New York State Great Lakes Wind Feasibility Study is to provide an assessment that considers wind energy development in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, taking into account environmental, maritime, economic, and social issues as well as market barriers and costs. The feasibility study will be followed by a bidding process for the right to construct such a project. There would be no local control over the project; all the decisions would be made in Albany. Local residents will be forced to live with their state government’s decision.
One of the major issues will be whether construction on the lake bottom will stir up contaminated sediment and endanger the safety of the region’s drinking water. Residents worry that the restoration work on the lakes could be undone by the addition of the wind turbines that would be anchored in concrete slabs laid on the lake bed, with an underwater cable to take the electricity to the power grid. The state Department of Environmental Conservation said it has not studied the issue.
New York already has plans for wind farms off of Long Island. It is now pursuing a decision on infrastructure to accommodate the construction of the offshore wind turbines. By the end of 2020, the state will allocate as much as $200 million in public funding toward offshore wind port infrastructure, to be matched by private investment. Eleven ports have been prequalified as eligible for the funding, with the winner (or winners) to be announced by the end of 2020.
Ports on the shortlist created by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority include the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, Long Island’s Port Jefferson, and Port Cortlandt, located roughly 35 miles north of Manhattan along the Hudson River, which is located next to the Indian Point Energy Center–the closest nuclear plant to New York City. The Indian Point nuclear facility had generated a quarter of the power consumed by New York City and Westchester County, but two of its three units have closed and the third will cease operating by April 2021. The lost power is expected to be supplied by renewable energy in the long term. Port Cortlandt could host factories capable of making 350-foot blades, house-sized nacelles and the towers that hoist them into the air.
New York has decided to hold a single solicitation covering both the wind farm and the port. Under the new structure, offshore wind developers will bid proposed projects worth up to 2.5 gigawatts and include specific plans for using one or more New York ports. Developers can offer multiple options for partnering with ports, which will allow New York to select the ports they deem the best. The $200 million of state port funding will be allocated based on which offshore wind projects win the solicitation. Among the developers expected to bid in New York’s upcoming solicitation are Ørsted (Danish), Equinor (Norwegian), and Atlantic Shores (the latter is a joint venture of Shell (Dutch) and EDF (French)). So far, no American companies are expected to bid.
Equinor secured a contract for the 816 megawatt Empire Wind project off the coast of Long Island and plans to assemble its turbines at South Brooklyn. The contract between New York and Equinor sets a September 30, 2020 deadline for the state to decide on whether to make an investment in the port to get it ready to handle the new business. The South Brooklyn Marine Terminal is an underutilized site with port infrastructure already in place. But, it is located behind a bridge so that turbines would have to be shipped laying down rather than standing up as is standard practice in Europe.
New York State is picking winners and losers and choosing poorly. Taxpayers are being cheated, ratepayers are being robbed and Upstate New York forests are being obliterated. Where forests were, there is now barren land populated by hundreds of metallic solar panels – the vast majority of them imported — whose waste disposal is a problem once the solar panels stop producing electricity. Some 80 to 100 years of forest growth is being destroyed for 15 to 20 years of uneconomical solar energy that consumers will pay higher electricity prices for because Governor Cuomo demanded it. Likewise, wind turbines are being built to meet New York’s new laws that demand carbon free energy, again raising energy prices to consumers. Residents have little input as Albany makes the decisions, overriding local input.
Joe Biden’s “clean energy” and climate plans will pose the same situation for Americans—only this time it will be nation-wide as he pursues his platform to make U.S. electricity carbon-free by 2035 and the rest of our energy carbon-free by 2050.