Historically a proud leader in environmental protection, New York State is poised to claim a new reason for that title: New York has emerged a leader in the field of renewable energy. According to the Energy Information Administration, New York now ranks fourth in the United States for renewable energy generation, and fifth in renewable energy capacity.
Most of the state’s renewable portfolio is made up of hydroelectric power, with smaller contributions from wind, landfill gas, and biomass sources. New York is home to the 2,353-megawatt Robert Moses Niagara hydroelectric power plant, the fourth largest such plant in the nation, and holds the title of greatest producer of hydroelectric power east of the Rocky Mountains.
Now an increase in New York’s use of its wind resources is on the horizon. In 2011, the New York Power Authority, Long Island Power Authority, and Consolidated Edison proposed a collaborative offshore wind project, and requested a commercial lease from the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (“BOEM”) for a parcel of land in the Atlantic Ocean, 13 miles south of Long Island. On this property, the energy companies plan to perform a site assessment, with the goal of developing an offshore wind facility able to produce up to 700 megawatts of wind power, and eventually providing clean, renewable energy to the Long Island and New York City regions.
This January, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (“BOEM”) published a Request for Interest to assess whether other parties were similarly interested in developing their own commercial wind facilities in this area. In May of this year, BOEM published a call for information from parties interested in leasing and developing commercial wind facilities, and issued a notice of intent to conduct an environmental assessment to determine whether there are significant impacts, as defined by the National Environmental Protection Act (“NEPA”), associated with issuing commercial wind leases and conducting site characterization and assessment activities. BOEM’s environmental assessment will not address the environmental impacts of offshore wind development; these impacts will be considered after the prospective leases are granted and the lessees propose specific commercial wind projects. Nevertheless, BOEM’s recent attention to the energy companies’ proposal is an important step towards maximizing the use of wind power in the state.
Perhaps this is the push that New York needs to meet its renewable energy goals, as announced in its Renewable Portfolio Standard. In 2013, 23% of the state’s electricity generation came from renewable energy resources; the Renewable Portfolio Standard requires that 30% of electricity come from renewable sources by 2015. With implementation of this new wind power project, and with continued focus on maximizing use of a diverse array of renewable resources, as much as 40% of New York’s energy needs could be met by renewable sources by 2030, perhaps pushing it even higher than fourth or fifth place, respectively, in renewable energy generation and capacity.