Quantcast

Head of Renewable Energy Long Island, Gordian Raacke, Talks Offshore Wind Industry on the Horizon

offshore wind
“We’re like the Saudi Arabia of offshore wind,” Gordian Raacke says.

The month that includes Earth Day is a perfect time to check in regarding alternative energy in New York State such as wind and solar. We talked with Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, a not-for-profit organization working to accelerate the transition to 100% renewable energy systems, about goals, accomplishments, and what’s getting done for wind and sun.

Can you talk a little bit about New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and its impact on wind and solar energy? The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act is a nation-leading law that New York State adopted and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed. It governs the transition to clean energy in New York State and essentially net-zero greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2050.

How does it do that and what’s happening now? They established a 22-member climate action council charged with developing a scoping plan that lays out how to get from where we are today in New York State to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. It has interim targets and goals for energy and other things, such as electrification of the transportation and building sectors.

Is this happening now or in the future? It’s already happening. With some targets, they’ve achieved a good portion. NYSERDA (the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority), the primary agency charged with implementation, along with the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation), issued a strategic outlook for 2022 to 2025. That spells out what they’ll do in the next three years and beyond.

What are some specifics? On electricity, it has a target that 70% of New York’s electricity will come from renewable power generation by 2030. That’s just around the corner. By 2040, 100% of our electricity has to be zero emissions electricity, from renewable energy and from existing nuclear power. The state had a 6,000 megawatt-distributed solar target by 2025. Gov. Kathy Hochul upped that to 10,000 by 2030.

What’s been implemented so far? Let’s take renewable electricity. Today, we have 27% of our power coming from renewables. By 2030, we have to have 70%, by law. Right now, 63%, is already existing, awarded, under contracts, or being built. They’re well on their way to reaching that goal. Building large-scale renewables can take five years or more. They’ve signed contracts or begun construction and permitting.

How does offshore wind fit into this? Under the climate law, New York State has established a target of 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035. That’s enough to power 6 million homes. The Beacon Wind project (60 miles east of Montauk Point and 20 miles south of Nantucket) and the Equinor project off of Jones Beach together are about 2,500 megawatts.

What else is going on with wind related to Long Island? They just held a big event in East Hampton for the South Fork Wind farm, which has been in the works for many years. LIPA issued a request for proposals to meet growing demand on the South Fork in 2015, awarded a contract, and permitting began. All the permits are in place and construction has begun.

Can you talk briefly about that? The South Fork Wind farm is a 132-megawatt offshore wind farm located about 35 miles east of Montauk. It will generate enough power for 70,000 homes and be connected to the East Hampton substation by an undersea cable.

What else is in the works for wind farms off Long Island? Developers have obtained the rights to use certain areas of the ocean to place turbines in the water. Those are in the permitting stage. They have to do environmental impact statements and are expected to come online by 2025. They have power contracts with the state through NYSERDA. The utilities will be the offtakers of that power.

Will that power go to Long Island? Pretty much all goes through Long Island, but it will be purchased by other utilities, including LIPA and Con Edison and other utilities across the state. PSEG-LI is a contractor to LIPA.

Is more wind in the works? The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management [BOEM], part of the Department of the Interior, just auctioned off hundreds of acres of offshore wind leases off Long Island and the New Jersey coast. They just awarded a lot of offshore wind leases, enough to power about 2 million homes. These are the next projects in the pipeline.

What’s been happening with solar on Long Island? Solar on Long Island has kept growing. It didn’t grow at the very rapid pace that it was growing at through 2017, because rebates on the residential side stepped down and were phased out.  But it’s been growing. There are about 60,000 rooftop arrays installed, which is pretty amazing. What continues to grow are larger-scale, commercial and utility-scale solar farms on Long Island and elsewhere.

What’s driving solar demand today? The idea that you can have your own power plant on your roof and your electric bill can be essentially zero is still attractive. For people who can’t do that, you can join a community solar farm. Now we can tell people to buy into a community solar project and get about a 10% discount on their electricity bill.

How does battery storage for energy fit into this? We also have an attractive market for battery energy storage. Areas like the South and North Fork have a growing electricity demand in the summer. Energy storage is just getting started. In the Town of East Hampton, we have two utility-scale battery energy storage facilities that help meet peak demand. Each one of these facilities can power 5,000 homes for eight hours.

Where does Long Island stand in general related to renewable energy now and in store for the future? Long Island is a leader in New York State in terms of solar rooftop installations. We still have more potential. We can still grow the solar market. And we’re like the Saudi Arabia of offshore wind. That’s a huge new industry and an economic driver, creating jobs and secondary activity.

For more business coverage visit longislandpress.com/category/business

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters here. Sign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.

More from our Sister Sites