Op-ed: Offshore Wind Providing A Cleaner, Greener and More Resilient New York

FILE PHOTO: Power-generating windmill turbines are pictured at the 'Amrumbank West' offshore windpark in the northern sea near the island of Amrum, Germany September 4, 2015. REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen/File Photo
Two years. To the average person that might seem like a long time to wait for something to happen. But in the world of environmental advocacy, where progress often occurs at a glacial pace, the progress that we have seen the South Fork offshore wind project make over the past two years is a truly remarkable success story that will serve as the launching pad for New York’s clean energy economy.

For those of us in the environmental advocacy community, who along with our local civic, labor and business group partners have spent the past two years pushing, prodding and pulling in the same direction to advance this project, the Public Service Commission’s approval of the South Fork Wind cable landing site is an important milestone along the road to a cleaner, greener and more resilient New York that will be powered by offshore wind energy. Once completed – becoming New York’s first offshore wind farm – South Fork Wind will provide enough clean energy to power more than 70,000 homes, while also importantly reducing carbon emissions and creating our next generation of green economy jobs. But arguably even more important than what this historic project will achieve is the momentous path it will set us on.

In 2019 when New York passed its historic climate law that requires 70 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent emissions free by 2040 it was lauded as a transformational moment in the fight against climate change and a national model for other states to follow.  That same law committed New York to 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind generation, making it very clear where that power would come from.  South Fork Wind is leading the way as a foundational piece of the clean energy puzzle New York is assembling, with Empire Wind 1 and 2, Sunrise Wind and Beacon Wind all to follow.

It’s clear that we cannot win the fight against climate change without responsibly developed offshore wind power, and in fact, we cannot even step into the ring.  That is why the PSC’s approval is so important, because it not only advances a key clean energy project, but it also represents a significant and concrete step toward reaching the offshore wind driven clean energy economy that New York needs in order to meet its ambitious and necessary climate change goals.

Whether it’s been working with PSC staff, organizing support from local and state elected officials, or mobilizing a deep grassroots public education and advocacy effort, South Fork Wind is a shining example of how a collaborative and community driven project can transform our approach to clean energy development. As is the case with almost any development project, there has been motivated opposition along the way, but South Fork has persevered and continued its forward progress because of strong stakeholder engagement, local leadership and the State’s commitment to battling climate change.

As our state continues to grapple with an economy struggling to recover from the depths of the COVID crisis, offshore wind development is a ready, willing and waiting partner that we must engage. From new job creation to manufacturing activity and economic growth opportunities, offshore wind projects can provide a major boost to our economy, reduce pollution and help reach our climate change goals for years to come.

It is my hope that the action by the PSC is just another step in what will be a steady progression to a 100% clean energy future with offshore wind blowing us farther and farther away from the days of a fossil fuel-based economy.  Offshore Wind can power that transition and transform our climate change goals into a clean energy reality. Now that we’ve taken this big step, it’s time to put our next foot forward and get construction underway.

Joe Martens is the Director of the NY Offshore Wind Alliance and he’s the former Commissioner for the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). He joined the Alliance for Clean Energy NY in 2017.  Since joining ACE NY, New York State has adopted the most aggressive offshore wind targets in the United States, entered into contracts for the largest commercial-scale offshore wind projects to-date and has committed $200 million for port and infrastructure upgrades to support this burgeoning industry. 

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