Today was a big day on the way to New York’s energy future: Our “Climate Action Council” voted to approve the final “Scoping Plan,” telling us all how we are going to achieve, among other goals, 70% of statewide electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030 and a zero-emission electricity system by 2040. The press release has the headline “New York State Climate Action Council Finalizes Scoping Plan to Advance Nation-Leading Climate Law.” Here also is a link to the Scoping Plan itself.
Taking a look at the Scoping Plan and its Executive Summary, I find that the two biggest elements in getting to this zero-emissions electricity system are supposedly going to be offshore wind turbines and energy storage. I’ve covered the energy storage issues extensively in other posts. But how about this offshore wind thing? Surely, to commit New York to transitioning to using offshore wind as the primary source of electricity only seven years from now, they must have a very solid game plan for how it is going to happen.
Actually, as with everything else here, they have no idea. As of today, there isn’t a single functioning offshore wind turbine in New York State, nor is there a single offshore wind turbine under construction. The climate cultists on the Climate Action Council think that they can just order this up, and then it will happen.
From the Executive Summary, here is what the CAC says will be necessary to achieve its emissions goals:
[The Scoping Plan] requires that the State install:
6,000 megawatts (MW) of distributed solar by 2025
3,000 MW of energy storage by 2030
9,000 MW of offshore wind by 2035.
That 9,000 MW of offshore wind might initially sound like a lot. At 10 MW per turbine (huge), that would be 900 of these behemoths.
The EIA gives the total annual amount of electricity consumed in New York State for 2021 as 141,423,778 MWh. Divide by 8760 (hours in the year) and you get average demand of 16,144 MW. 9,000 MW starts off sounding like more than half of that. Not bad!
But of course wind turbines only generate at about 35% of capacity averaged over the year. So this 9,000 MW of offshore wind turbines will at best give us an average of about 3,000 MW, so well under 20% of our electricity demand for the year. Oh, and they’re planning to double electricity demand by electrifying cars and home heat, so make that 10%. And peak demand is as much as about 25,000 MW, 50,000 MW after doubling. When the peak hits you can’t count on the 9,000 MW of offshore wind for anything,. So why are we doing this again?
Undoubtedly, if this were being done competently, there must be a working demonstration project to show how the offshore wind will be built and then integrated into the existing system? Wrong. Rather, the plan appears to be to let some gigantic subsidized contracts and then hope that something gets built some day.
Here is a link to the website of the New York Energy Research and Development Agency (NYSERDA). They claim to have 4300 MW of offshore wind projects “under active development” in the state, which is less than half of the 9,000 MW supposedly coming. Of the 4,300 MW, almost all is in the Atlantic Ocean off New York City and Long Island. Here is the key piece of their map:
But go to the Empire Wind website, for example, and you find a timeline indicating that they are just about up to the point of submitting applications for permits to federal and state authorities. Construction — if it ever actually occurs — is multiple years in the future. Nothing different over at the Beacon Wind website.
And what if well-funded environmental opposition emerges to these projects? That is almost inevitable. As an example, there have already been lawsuits by wealthy homeowners seeking to prevent cables from these windfarms from making landfall in their areas. Here is an example of one such brought in 2021 in the Town of East Hampton.
Is there any offshore wind project farther along than these from which we can get an idea how things might develop? Yes, there is the Commonwealth Wind project in Massachusetts, off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. That one was approaching the start of construction, when in September the contractor told the state that it would need to “rewrite the contracts” because of a sharp increase in costs. On Friday (December 16) the contractor gave up on renegotiation efforts, and said it wants out of the contracts altogether. James Freeman of the Wall Street Journal has the story in his Best of the Web column today, relying on reporting from Jon Chest of the Boston Globe:
The state’s nascent offshore wind industry suffered a big setback on Friday when Avangrid told state regulators it wants to end its contracts with three major utilities to build a massive wind farm south of Martha’s Vineyard… In September, chief executive Pedro Azagra said Avangrid would postpone construction of Commonwealth Wind, which could eventually provide enough power for up to 750,000 homes, by pushing its completion date out to 2028, and would need to rewrite the contracts because of a sharp increase in commodity costs. With Friday’s move, Avangrid has given up on those renegotiation efforts.
Meanwhile, again from Freeman, over in Rhode Island, regulators are considering suspending a permit already granted for a cable to bring ashore power from another project called Mayflower Wind. The issue there is not the environmental impact of the cable, but rather the financial viability of the whole project:
Rhode Island utilities regulators are considering suspending Mayflower Wind’s application for transmission cables that would run up the Sakonnet River to the former site of the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset after the developer raised questions about the financial viability of the first phases of the $5 billion offshore wind project it has proposed off Massachusetts.
Is there any chance that New York will fare any better? Unlikely. Expect long delays and demands for lots more money before anything gets built.
Meanwhile, what is the total number of offshore wind turbines currently operating the the U.S.? According to Wikipedia here, the number is 7 — 5 for Block Island (part of Rhode Island) and 2 off Virginia. The same article says the Biden Administration plans to increase the capacity of offshore wind by around a factor of over 1000 by 2030. Sure.