Smart Grid

January 07, 2013

Among Grid Upgrades, New York Area Utilities Propose Offshore Wind Project

Following the epic storm that leveled much of the New York region’s electrical infrastructure in late October, most area residents don’t even want to hear about the benefits of a brisk wind, either onshore or offshore.

However, a grid-tied, offshore wind farm actually may be the answer to some of their problems. Not only would the Long Island-New York City Offshore Wind Project represent 350 to 700 megawatts (MW) of distributed generation, but it would supplant fossil fuels with renewable energy..

The idea is being advanced by a public-private partnership that has full participation from the area’s beleaguered utilities—Con Edison, Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), and New York Power Authority (NYPA). The power companies are focused on responding to widespread criticism about their storm response in two ways: First, they are looking at upgrading their infrastructure with smart grids, batteries, and other next-generation hardware and software that will enable them to identify and repair problem areas more quickly. Second, they are adding extra capacity.

The collaborative already has a jump on idea number two: In September 2011, the companies filed an offshore land lease application with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE).

Subsequently, on January 3, 2013, BOEMRE, which is a division of the U.S. Interior Department, issued a request (“Commercial Leasing for Wind Power on the Outer Continental Shelf Offshore New York”) for any competing interests in the proposed lease area, which covers about 127 square miles (329 square kilometers), situated 13 nautical miles off the Rockaway Peninsula. The agency also is seeking comments on potential environmental effects of a wind farm in the area.

If no other parties express interest, the New York Power Authority will be able to procure a lease on a non- competitive basis. NYPA and its partners have drawn up a list of priorities for the project. They propose that any successful wind-generation project for the New York metropolitan area must:

·         Be centralized and large enough to be cost-effective;

·         Interact with the electric grid at a high-voltage transmission level; and

·         Be close enough to where the electricity is used so that the energy can be harnessed and distributed economically.

Indeed, the utilities are stressing the importance of “location, location, location.” In contrast to land-based wind facilities in remote regions of the state, ocean-based wind power is stronger, more consistently available, and can be situated closer to Long Island and New York City. Also, land-based wind power availability tends to diminish during the hottest part of a summer day, which is precisely the time that Long Island, New York City and Westchester customers use the most electricity. The higher transmission cost adds to the expense of remote land-based wind power.

Asked for comment on the initiative, the three utilities issued a joint statement: “Offshore wind power offers clean energy benefits to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming and climate change, issues identified by [New York State] Governor Andrew M. Cuomo as important concerns when planning future energy projects. Information gathered from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management lease application review process and the efforts to be undertaken through the Energy Highway Blueprint, will help advance the potential of offshore wind as a clean energy source, while seeking to address its economic and environmental challenges.

“The collaborative looks forward to the input the bureau is expected to receive from interested parties to its Request for Information. This includes the possibility of submissions from others who might have a competitive interest in obtaining a commercial lease for wind development at the proposed site.”

To date, there are no offshore wind farms operating in the United States. According to Bloomberg (News - Alert), the federal government already has awarded two offshore wind-energy leases— in Massachusetts in 2010 and in Delaware in October, through non-competitive arrangements with Cape Wind Associates LLC and NRG Energy Inc. (NRG) The administration plans to conduct the first competitive lease auctions this year for projects off the coasts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Virginia. The Long Island Power Authority canceled plans in 2007 to build a wind farm off Jones Beach after costs rose.

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli