LI Labor, Business Leaders Discuss Off Shore Wind Opportunities

off shore wind
Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) hosted a conference on Sept. 17 to discuss preparing for offshore wind energy’s opportunities for Long Island workers and businesses. Speaking virtually was Liz Shuler, president of The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). (Courtesy Office of Congressman Tom Suozzi)

Long Island’s wind farms will create at least 6,800 jobs with annual salaries averaging $100,000. 

That’s according to NYSERDA — New York State Energy Research and Development Authority — the state agency overseeing five offshore wind projects currently in early development. NYSERDA aims to reach 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2035 — a goal set to combat the ongoing threats of climate change. 

“Climate change is already here, and it’s happening in every community, every zip code,” said Liz Shuler, president of The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). “We have to transition to a clean energy future. The question is ‘how?’ And I would say the answer is with good, union jobs, and that’s why we are building a labor movement that will meet the moment.”

The Sunrise Wind Farm, slated to be located 30 miles off Long Island’s east coast, is New York’s first wind project, to be completed as early as 2023. This project and Empire Wind 1, which is planned for 14 miles south of Jones Beach, are still in the phase of securing permits before manufacturing, construction, and installation begin. They are currently the two that are furthest along in the years-long process of all five anticipated wind farms. Combined with three others, the projects stand to generate $12.1 billion for New York’s economy.

Many Long Island labor leaders, environmentalists, and business owners see wind energy as a win-win-win for all parties involved: workers, the climate, and the economy, as they expressed at a Sept. 17 conference on wind energy hosted by Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove).

At the conference, a representative from NYSERDA, a union manager, business leaders, representatives from wind power companies Equinor and Orsted, and more gathered and spoke on panels to address how all these stakeholders would come together to make wind energy — and the jobs that come with it — a reality.

Adrienne Esposito, president of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, however, noted that there is still public opposition to wind energy, including concerns about the costs and impacts on communities. She referenced an initiative she helped launch, Wind Works Long Island, which raises awareness and spreads the word about community discussions about these projects.

“We work closely with our brothers and sisters in labor in that group,” Esposito said. “The naysayers are coming out; we need you to come out as well. We need to show up at those permit hearings.”

The projects, once fully approved, would create thousands of jobs for several groups of workers — manufacturers, maritime laborers, turbine technicians, maintenance crews, construction workers, and more. 

To transition people into these jobs in a brand-new industry for the country, New York has established training programs at SUNY Maritime College and SUNY Farmingdale. Labor leaders expressed needing a healthy transition for workers to be retrained in using new equipment.

“We acknowledge that it has to be more than something we say — it has to be action around climate, economics, and accountability,” said Chris Erikson Jr., assistant business manager for the Local Union No. 3 International Brotherhood of Electric Workers (IBEW). “The scientific proof is there that if we do this right, we’re going to change the world for the better.”

The conference also addressed the manufacturing supply chain on LI and how Long Island’s aerospace companies and other businesses might benefit from getting involved in wind power projects. This is where Ross Gould, vice president for supply chain development at Business Network for Offshore Wind, came in. The nonprofit organization has a diverse coalition of more than 400 members involved in labor, supply chain, the environment, and academics. It runs a database of companies called Supply Chain Connect that businesses can register for to show interest in contributing to wind projects.

“The network tracks the commercial activity and policies that impact offshore wind 24/7, 365 days a year,” Gould said. “We also have other tools — we host regular industry education events and we host our annual International Partnering Forum, which brings together businesses, original equipment manufacturers, to have conversations about how they can work together. We’re also in the process of developing a supply chain road map.”

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