Jumpstarting NY’s New Climate Law: 1,700 MW of Offshore Wind!

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By Joe Martens

Last week, Governor Cuomo signed the most aggressive climate legislation in the United States.  The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) requires 70 percent of the state’s electricity to be produced by renewable sources by 2030 and, by 2040, zero emissions from electric generation.  It requires greenhouse gases (GHG) that fuel global warming to be reduced by 85% from 1990 levels by 2050, and also sets a goal of eliminating all anthropogenic sources by 2050. For the first time, the law memorializes targets for solar and energy efficiency, and it establishes a nation-leading offshore wind (OSW) capacity target of 9,000 megawatts by 2035.  Ambitious, yes! If the OSW build-out goes as expected, we should have enough turbines spinning in the Atlantic to generate about 5,500 megawatts (MW) by 2030, or about 12-14% of the state’s anticipated electricity load.  By 2035, when OSW capacity reaches 9,000 MW (the statutory target), OSW will be providing about 30% of the state’s electricity load.  Conclusion: If New York is going to meet its legal obligation to provide 70 percent renewable electricity generation by 2030, we’d better kickstart OSW Now. 

The good news: that is precisely what’s happening.  At the same time that Governor Cuomo signed the new climate law, he announced the result of the state’s first OSW solicitation.  Two projects, Sunrise Wind (a joint venture between Ørsted and Eversource) and Empire Wind (proposed by Equinor) won awards for an 880 MW and 816 MW project, respectively. That’s nearly 1,700 MW, enough to power a million households.  It’s a huge first installment toward NY’s 9,000 MW goal.  It represents $3.2 billion in economic activity in New York State and much more regionally, the creation of some 1,600 good, green, high-paying jobs and a quantum leap forward for a brand-new U.S. clean energy industry.  There’s lots of good news in this announcement but I’ll leave the details to future blogs. 

In the meantime, the sobering reality is that it will take five years or so to get the Sunrise and Empire Wind projects permitted and built. So, if NY is going to meet its new legal requirement for renewable energy, it’s critical that it tee up the next offshore wind solicitation ASAP, hopefully early next year. The climate crisis is growing and there is simply no time for New York to rest on its laurels.