Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo finalized the State Energy Plan, which sets forth the state’s aggressive efforts to combat global climate change. One of the main pillars of this plan is the goal that half of the state’s power will come from clean, renewable energy sources by 2050. New York is one of the most populous states in the country and, as such, is one of the biggest energy consumers in the country. Establishing a goal of powering the state with 50 percent clean, renewable energy will reduce harmful climate change pollution, but it will take initiative and American ingenuity.
Luckily, New York has one source of clean, renewable energy that it has yet to tap into: offshore wind. A January 2015 Oceana report found that New York has 11.6 gigawatts of offshore wind potential. That’s enough energy to power over 9 million households in the state. Not only does this power source have a particularly large potential along the East Coast, it also provides power directly to the coasts, and does so at the times of highest energy demand. With much of New York’s population residing near the coast, offshore wind energy represents a unique opportunity to tackle climate change and power coastal communities.
Researchers at the University of Delaware’s Special Initiative on Offshore Wind (SIOW) have studied New York’s offshore wind potential extensively and made recommendations for the state. In March, SIOW released a report for how New York can forge a path forward on developing the state’s offshore wind potential. That report found that industry trends and state actions could reduce the cost for offshore wind power by as much as one half. Specifically, SIOW recommends that the state create new financing mechanisms, develop appropriate infrastructure and make project data public, among other state interventions. Even in the absence of state laws, SIOW found that offshore wind costs could be reduced by more than 20 percent just by industry becoming more efficient on its own.
Ultimately, setting high but achievable goals like the one included in New York’s State Energy Plan is not the end of the battle when it comes to developing clean, renewable energy, like offshore wind. State policies will need to be implemented if New York is to take advantage of this abundant untapped resource, as will federal policies that can help level the playing field for new emerging industries, like an extension of the Investment Tax Credit. Governor Cuomo’s energy plan represents a significant starting point for the state to be a leader on not only the development of offshore wind energy, but also renewable energy development as a whole.