The United States is on the precipice of an offshore wind revolution, and New York is at its center, as demonstrated by the historic auction of lease areas in Atlantic Ocean waters earlier this year. Paired with existing projects off Long Island, offshore wind is set to become an essential part of our clean power future.
Now, New York must focus on an accompanying challenge — how to plan and build infrastructure that effectively delivers this energy to our homes and businesses. The key lies in the way that we build cables to move power to shore.
To date, New York has implemented a project-by-project approach for offshore wind transmission, meaning that each offshore wind project designs and builds its own transmission lines to transport wind power to the onshore grid. Picture each transmission line as an extension cord, with one to four cords from each farm to the grid. This is an inefficient approach that increases costs for New Yorkers, causes unwanted disruptions on the ocean floor, and creates severe congestion for the power grid — problems that will worsen as more offshore wind projects are built. With a planned transmission system, instead of multiple extension cords, picture one power strip that efficiently connects multiple offshore wind farms before delivering the energy to prime locations on the onshore power grid.
New York’s own studies commissioned by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority clearly show that the best path forward is a planned transmission system, where New York can assess all infrastructure needs and plan for the future. That way, we can provide predictability to ratepayers and the industry and optimize our limited points of interconnection to the onshore grid. With fewer onshore connections required, there will be less disruption to Long Island communities.
This allows power generated from offshore wind farms to reach New York homes and businesses more efficiently, reliably, and affordably — while reducing environmental impacts.
The NYSERDA findings are not a surprise to us; for years, Anbaric has advocated for a planned transmission system in New York. Our analysis last year found that such a system would result in cost savings of over $500 million and significantly reduce environmental impacts. This is a proven approach for offshore wind transmission, as several European countries have years of experience in this area.
However, despite NYSERDA’s findings, the latest draft offshore wind solicitation released in March does not request technical specifications required for an effective planned transmission system. If NYSERDA were to require that in the solicitation, New York would be closer to realizing the full benefits of a planned power grid. We should look to our neighbors in New Jersey, whose proposed planned transmission ocean grid will provide a more attractive destination for wind developers in the New York Bight than what is presently being proposed in New York.
There’s still time for action. New York will be releasing its third offshore wind solicitation later this year. NYSERDA has a chance to plan a more robust and capable grid that can scale the offshore wind industry. Now is the time to implement innovative, efficient grid infrastructure that will minimize environmental impacts of offshore wind, reduce ratepayer costs, and accelerate this growing domestic energy source.
This guest essay reflects the views of Janice Fuller, president of Mid-Atlantic at Anbaric, where she leads efforts to develop offshore wind transmission infrastructure in the region.