Posted by D. Posnett MD On Apr 5, 2023, at noon, CCE (Citizens Campaign for the Environment) put together a great webinar to address increases in whale strandings and whale deaths off the Atlantic sea shore and in particular the New York blight.
Adrienne Esposito led the discussion. She reminds us that whales are under threat from several sources, including ship strikes, fishing gear, plastic pollution, and climate change. Unfortunately, misinformation has targeted offshore wind development. Local wind projects are crucial to combat climate change, which in itself threatens whales, other marine mammals, fisheries, and our local communities.
Check out this virtual educational forum to hear from experts at the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation, and Atlantic Marine Conservation Society. Learn more about the recent whale strandings and deaths, and what is being done to protect whales. Hosted by CCE, NY League of Conservation Voters, and the NY Offshore Wind Alliance.
For a complete review of the webinar, watch it on YouTube (1 hour):
Here are some points that struck me:
There is a real increase in whale deaths since 2016 (about 4-5 fold over baseline). It is over a large area of the Atlantic coastline. It involves all whale species. Leading causes are vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear.
With the return of menhaden fish schools (food for whales), whale sightings have also increased.
The nascent offshore wind farms have nothing to do with this real and important problem
The following are a few highlights from the webinar. Courtesy of the speakers:
Julie Tighe (New York League of Conservation voters). Meghan Rickard, NY State Dep of Environmental Conservation. Erika Staaterman, BOEM. Robert A. DiGiovanni, Atlantic Marine Conservation Society. Adrienne Esposito, Citizens campaign
Large whale (with white fins) feeding on Menhaden school.
Opinion/Yerman: Fishermen need to partner with offshore wind developers
Gary Yerman is fleet manager and co-founder of Sea Services North America, in Waterford, Conn.
After fishing for 45 years, I’ve learned three things: 1) There’s no substitute for hard work; 2) Provide for the ocean because she provides for you; and 3) How to tell a good fishing story.
I want to share the latest chapter in the story of my life at sea. A couple of years ago, representatives from different offshore wind developers were making visits to commercial fishermen up and down the East Coast. New London Seafood Distributors was no different and I was visited regularly with stories I didn’t believe and promises that felt insincere. Eventually, I sat down with Michael Theiler and Gordon Videll to talk about how to best co-exist with the inevitability of offshore wind in a time the government regulation has compromised commercial fishing viability.
We all want to know the lights will go on when we flip the switch. I learned that offshore wind is helping keep those lights on around the world and commercial fishermen are part of it. The sea has been good to me and like most fisherman, the knee jerk reaction was to fight to protect what we know and even if development is inevitable, we would get a bigger check for disruption the more we fought.
Instead, with encouragement from Orsted’s Matt Morrisey, Gordon, Mike and I packed our bags and headed for Kilkeel in Northern Ireland. There we met a group of fishermen that just 10 years earlier were devastated by fishing regulations and quotas caused by the European Union. The town and port were frighteningly similar to New London with an underused port and vacant storefronts. In those 10 years, the port was rebuilt, and the storefronts were filled with thriving retail, restaurants and office space. By supplementing offshore wind work with fishing, the once struggling town had the boost it needed to right itself. The similarities were undeniable, and I knew we could do the same.
We knew the key to enduring commercial success would be to partner with an experienced developer and use top shelf software to implement the best safety policies using the native knowledge of our local fishermen; fishermen who had a true vision for what this opportunity holds for us.
Orsted leaned in to meet us just as we leaned in to meet them. They knew the industry standard for fishing vessels wouldn’t meet their heightened safety requirements, but they gave us a chance. With their help and expertise, we met the requirements and exceeded expectations by providing a scout vessel for their last survey without incident. 9,000 square kilometers without as much as an entanglement with fishing gear.
The perfect storm of experience, technology and teamwork proved that there is a place for us. This is not a token contract for optics, but instead a substantive partnership that increases fishing vessel safety, keeps money local and adds great value to the offshore wind developer’s missions. We are looking forward to continuing our commercial relationship as the construction phase begins. Orsted’s commitment to using local fishermen through Sea Services North America cannot be understated. From working through the regulatory issues, upgrading and inspecting boats and providing training, Orsted is a true partner.
Offshore wind, and Orsted in particular, has allowed us to build a business that will provide work for scores of fishermen. The economic impact that will stay the community is enormous. We aren’t special, but what we are building is very special and it will support many struggling fishermen. We have the chance to build on the momentum Orsted’s commitment to the region has created. I hope that others seize this opportunity and storefront vacancies in my hometown are soon filled. Responsible participation in this new industry is a way for us all to provide for the ocean so that she can continue to provide for us.
On March 18th Chris Paparo, the manager of Stony Brook University’s Marine Sciences Center reported a sighting of a mother right whale with her calf just 300 yards off an East Hampton ocean beach! #3720, as she is called, had travelled from waters near Wassaw Island, Georgia, where she and her calf were last seen on Jan. 19th 2021, their final destination perhaps Cape Cod bay, or as far north as the gulf of St. Lawrence.
We all know that the right whale is a critically endangered species with less than 400 individuals still alive and perhaps less than 100 reproducing females. Spotting calves with their mothers represents a glimmer of hope.
With plans to build an offshore South Fork Wind Farm 35 miles east of Montauk point and run a submarine cable coming ashore on a Wainscott beach, I could not help wonder how the developer (Ørsted) plans to safeguard these magnificent marine mammals.
Here is my lay person report.
Ørsted takes this very seriously. I spoke with Sophie Hartfield Lewis, Ørsted Head of U.S. Permitting. Safeguarding whales are clearly dear to her heart. Together with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution they are tackling issues like the correct distance between a source of submarine noise, such as pile driving, and a whale straying into the area. At what distance is there assured harm to the whale’s hearing (permanent or temporary)? At what distance do all drilling operations need to be halted? Currently that stands at 1 km depending on what marine species is involved and the type of noise emitted, including the noise frequency. F.ex. frequencies above 200 mHz are deemed safe because whales don’t hear them or because they don’t have adverse reactions to them.
I also learned about techniques used to dampen noise. (a) There is something called a ‘Big bubble curtain’ (BBC): it consists of a flexible tube fitted with special nozzle openings and installed on the seabed around the pile. Compressed air is forced through the nozzles producing a curtain of rising, expanding bubbles. These bubbles effectively attenuate noise by scattering sound on the air bubbles, absorbing sound, or reflecting sound off the air bubbles! (b) There is the Hydro-Sound Damper (HSD): it consists of a fisher net with different sized elements, laid out at various distances from each other, and encapsulating the pile. HSD elements can be foam plastic or gas-filled balloons. Noise is reduced as it crosses the HSD due to reflection and absorption. (c) There is the AdBm, Helmholz resonator: it consists of large arrays of Helmholtz resonators, or air filled containers with an opening on one side that can be set to vibrate at specific frequencies to absorb noise, deployed as a “fence” around pile driving activities. Sophie told me that if operations were to start tomorrow, they would use BBC.
I spoke with Catherine Bowes of the National Wildlife Foundation. Key recommendations include: seasonal & temporal restrictions on pile driving; real-time monitoring of science-based exclusion zones; underwater noise limits; vessel speed restrictions; and commitments to pre, during & post-construction monitoring to ensure we learn as we go, in launching this new clean energy industry. This last point is essential for informing impact mitigation strategies along the coast.
Sophie Hartfield Lewis directed me to an online pdf. Pages 100-166 directly concern mitigation strategies for the SFWF. It is titled “Protected Species Mitigation and Monitoring Plan South Fork Wind, LLC.“ I warn the reader: it gets pretty involved.
The world has seen an increasing and alarming number of extinctions in recent years. And that’s only the ones we know about. Ultimately, protecting threatened species protects us, the human species, because loss of biodiversity has health impacts among many other ill effects. Just google ’loss of biodiversity.’ Simultaneously, we are existentially threatened by climate change. Thus, we have no choice. We need to save species like the right whale and we need offshore wind energy.
Win With Wind held a virtual seminar on
Offshore Wind Farms & Protection of Endangered Species
04.26.2021 10:00 Stony Brook University and Ørsted/Eversource signed a MOU to further New York State’s and Sunrise Wind’s leadership in the offshore wind industry
Stony Brook, N.Y. – April 26, 2021 – Joint venture partners Ørsted and Eversource, developers of New York offshore wind farm, Sunrise Wind, announced today the launch of a research partnership with Stony Brook University. The $5 million commitment funded by the project will underwrite research initiatives specific to the advancement of offshore wind through Stony Brook’s Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center (AERTC) in connection with the Sunrise Wind project.
The AERTC, a New York State Center of Excellence in Energy, is a true partnership of academic institutions, research institutions, energy providers and industrial corporations. The Center’s mission is to promote innovative energy research, education, and technology deployment with a focus on efficiency, conservation, renewable energy and nanotechnology applications for new sources of energy.
The funds will support multiple research projects to improve and advance offshore wind energy development and grid integration. The AERTC would focus on interdisciplinary research activities related to:
Engineering, construction, and logistics for offshore wind power generation;
Technological innovations to reduce costs and improve efficiencies of offshore wind;
Wind resource assessment and energy production forecasting;
Integrating intermittent renewable energy sources with utility grids; and
Coordinating the development of offshore wind resources with other commercial offshore uses, particularly the fishing industry.
“We are very excited by the possibilities this partnership with Ørsted and Eversource presents,” said Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis. “Since opening AERTC in 2010, Stony Brook has been effectively advancing renewable energy research and training students who will become the next generation of energy experts. With this research partnership and collaboration, we are poised to make a real impact on the future production and efficiency of offshore wind energy.”
“The offshore wind industry and the prospect of a clean energy future are two of the most exciting developments happening right now in the United States,” said David Hardy, Chief Executive Officer of Ørsted Offshore North America.“Stony Brook University has long been positioning itself to be an academic and research epicenter of this green movement. The goal of this partnership is to leverage the academic power of this world-class research institution and apply it to our projects.”
“We’re fortunate to partner with such an esteemed institution as Stony Brook University to conduct important research for our offshore wind projects,” said
Werner Schweiger, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Eversource Energy.“The researchers at Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center at Stony Brook have demonstrated great leadership in advancing new renewable energy technology and we look forward to collaborating with them to bring offshore wind to the state of New York.”
“We are delighted that the AERTC at Stony Brook is recognized by Ørsted and Eversource to be a leader in advancing New York State’s Clean energy goals,” said Robert Catell, Chairman of the AERTC Advisory Board at Stony Brook University. “As the New York State Center of Excellence in Energy, it is the ideal location to conduct research to advance offshore wind technology and support economic development and workforce training. Today’s commitment recognizes the AERTC’s proven expertise in offshore wind research and development, demonstrated particularly through its leadership in helping to launch the National Offshore Wind R&D Consortium.”
“Stony Brook University is at the frontier of conducting research that will dramatically reduce the cost of offshore wind energy and help integrate the electricity produced by offshore wind farms into our power grid,” said Richard Reeder, Ph.D., Vice President for Research at Stony Brook University. “Partnerships with industry leaders like Ørsted and Eversource are critical for translating our cutting-edge research into practical solutions that will augment our capacity for innovation and train the workforce of the future, while helping New York State meet its bold clean energy goals.”
“The research and development activities to be conducted by Orsted/Eversource and Stony Brook University’s Advanced Energy and Research Technology Center will ultimately help drive down the costs of offshore wind and provide further insight into integrating this renewable resource onto the electric grid,” said Doreen Harris, President and CEO, NYSERDA. “These partnerships are absolutely critical to ensuring offshore wind is being developed with a focus on the most innovative and efficient technologies available to quickly get it to scale and support the mounting demand for clean energy not only in New York but across the nation.”
“Suffolk County is fully committed to undertaking the research and development necessary to transform an aging infrastructure into a clean energy economy that will serve as a national model,” said Steve Bellone, Suffolk County Executive. “The synergy between Stony Brook University and Ørsted and Eversource is essential to moving our region forward and expediting the critical progression to provide us with a safe and reliable future.”
“Long Island is home to one of the best renewable energy research institutions in our nation in Stony Brook University, and its work is key to New York’s leadership in the green economy,” said State Senator Todd Kaminsky, Chair of the New York State Senate Environmental Conservation Committee. “This partnership between the University, Ørsted and Eversource is integral to propelling us into a future powered by clean energy, while bringing offshore wind and good jobs to our Island.”
“By following through on earlier promises to provide such funding the Ørsted corporation is proving to be both a good corporate citizen and a reliable partner in the necessary quest to replace Long Island’s fossil fuel energy sources with clean, renewable wind power,” said New York State Assemblyman, Steve Englebright. “Supporting Stony Brook’s research and education mission by committing to $5 million in grants for the marine, atmospheric, and environmental engineering sciences is a wise investment into a better tomorrow for all of us.”
Ms. Amanda Lefton Director, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management 45600 Woodland Road Sterling, VA 20166
Re: Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for Ocean Wind, LLC’s Proposed Wind Energy Facility Offshore New Jersey
On behalf of the undersigned individuals, businesses, organizations and the thousands of recreational anglers we represent across the northeast region, we submit the following comments on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) regarding the Ocean Wind 1,100-megawatt offshore wind energy project that is a joint venture between Ørsted and PSEG.
Governor Murphy has made New Jersey a national leader in offshore wind with a goal of deploying 7,500 megawatts of responsibly developed offshore wind by 2035, enough to power 3.75 million homes. New Jersey’s offshore wind strategic plan states, “New Jersey must develop offshore wind in a manner that maintains and protects robust commercial and recreational fishing, while recognizing that the environmental benefits of offshore wind and new economic opportunities it brings also have the potential to support these industries.” The EIS is a critical step to achieve this goal, and we support projects moving through a robust environmental review process that ensures responsible development is achieved every step of the way.
As recreational anglers, we recognize the potential benefits of offshore wind power and believe it is possible for turbine development to peacefully coexist with and even improve fishing in the Atlantic, provided project developers and government agencies abide by three clear principles as articulated by Anglers for Offshore Wind Power, listed below.
Anglers Principles for Responsible Offshore Wind Power Development:
Access: Recreational anglers must be able to fish up to the base of the turbine foundations to take advantage of the new habitat that will be created by offshore wind power development. We understand that access may be limited during construction.
Public Input: Recreational anglers must be engaged early in the planning process for offshore wind power development. Clearly communicated opportunities to provide input on siting, permitting, access, and other issues can avoid future conflicts.
Science: Fisheries research before, during, and after wind turbine construction is essential for monitoring impacts to species of interest to recreational anglers. Study results should be publicly available and regularly communicated to our community.
Upon review of the Construction and Operations Plan, and guided by the principles listed above, we have prepared the following recommendations for inclusion in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, guided by each of our principles.
By far, the number one issue of concern to the recreational fishing community is the potential loss of access to the very productive offshore fisheries that occupy this area at certain times of the year, mostly summer and fall. Besides the unique and irreplaceable social value of these fisheries, any loss of access in the Ocean Wind project site would result in significant impact to the local fishing and boating economy. This is a high-dollar fishery utilized by vessels accounting for hundreds of thousands of dollars of economic activity in electronics, gear, and tackle alone. For BOEM to gain a thorough understanding of potential impacts to recreational offshore fishing, we recommend consultation with the American Sportfishing Association and the NOAA Northeast Fishery Science Center.
Throughout this process many individual anglers and recreational fishing organizations have requested formal confirmation that after construction, access in lease areas and around turbines and other structures would be treated in the same manner as oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. In the decommissioning phase, we suggest that turbine structures be cut down to a safe height off the sea floor and the foundation and the reef that has been established as marine habitat remain intact. GPS positions of each of these reefs should be distributed to the fishing community as a “fishing hotspot reef chart.”
We also request BOEM include firm language in the Draft EIS clarifying that the entire impact analysis is based on an expectation of total access to the wind farm area after construction. Our ideal approach to this issue would be for BOEM to make post-construction access a permit condition for all offshore wind-related structures. We feel offshore wind structures should fall under the existing US Coast Guard regulations regarding “aids to navigation.” This is established language that is well understood by both mariners and enforcement.
We acknowledge and applaud the efforts of Ørsted and other developers to build relationships and learn about potential impacts to both commercial and recreational fishing. While we encourage each developer to continue their individual outreach, we do feel that a more formal and enduring forum for gathering input from the recreational fishing community is needed.
We agree that developing offshore wind energy is essential to protecting our nation and planet from the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification, and feel that all parties need a clearly defined seat at the table to ensure that such potentially massive development is undertaken as responsibly as possible. The opportunity for fisheries experts and the general public to provide input must be hardwired into the system.
We suggest each region establish a fisheries advisory body made up of various stakeholder groups that must be consulted on a regular basis. We feel the Federal Advisory Committee Act lays out a potential model for the type of formal process we are proposing.
Fisheries management needs are specific and often hard to understand. Some combination of staff from the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center, The New England and Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Councils, and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission must be involved in determining what types of monitoring should be required of the Ocean Wind proposal. In addition, we suggest a mechanism be created where these same fisheries management agencies have opportunities to review results and make further recommendations.
We further request that the Draft EIS reflect consideration of fisheries science data from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s Northeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center Bottom Trawl Survey.
Finally, we request a more comprehensive discussion of cumulative impacts on fisheries from continued offshore wind power development. It is essential we have a well-established framework for monitoring cumulative impacts now to avoid consequences for fisheries down the line.
We thank you for the opportunity to provide comment. By following our principles listed above, this new and important energy source can provide multiple benefits to recreational angling. Our community looks forward to continued engagement as the Ocean Wind project advances, and surrounding all future proposed offshore wind development.
NK TAUTOG: Tautog season opened in RI and MA on April 1 with a three fish/person/day limit, 16” minimum size. Maximum of ten fish per vessel. Capt. Monti with a 2020 tautog caught with jig and green crab. (Submitted photo) Posted Wednesday, April 7, 2021 6:31 am By CAPTAIN DAVE MONTI
“Anglers who fish the Block Island Wind Farm (BIWF) say it has been beneficial for fishing,” said a study published in Marine Policy, an international journal of ocean affairs.
“Interview findings revealed anglers” enjoyment of the offshore wind farm as an enhanced fishing location, due to catch and non-related aspects of the experience … Respondents also value the wind farm as symbolic of progress towards green energy.” said study authors Tiffany Smythe of the United States Coast Guard Academy, David Bidwell and Grant Tyler of the University of Rhode Island.
The study titled “Optimistic with reservations: The impacts of the United States’ first offshore wind farm on the recreational fishing experience” said, “Anglers reported concerns about increased crowding around the offshore wind farm and raised concerns about potential fishing access restrictions around this and future projects.”
In public hearings surrounding northeast offshore wind farms the United States Coast Guard has repeatedly said they will not restrict fishing around or in wind farms. And, developers have said, they do not have the jurisdiction (or desire) to restrict fishing in and around their wind farms. I am not aware of any fishing restrictions that have occurred at the Block Island Wind Farm since it became operational in December, 2016 except during limited maintenance periods to ensure work crew and boater safety.
Anglers are encouraged to provide state regulators and wind farm developers in their area with negative or positive input on offshore wind developments. For a list of offshore wind farms active off Rhode Island and Massachusetts visit the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) website at www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/state-activities. Slow down for right whales
There is a 10-knot small vessel (less than 65’ overall) speed limit in Cape Cod Bay to protect endangered right whales from the threat of ship strikes. During the late-winter and early-spring, right whales migrate into and aggregate in Cape Cod Bay where they feed on zooplankton.
On March 21, an aerial survey of the Bay sighted 89 right whales, including 3 mother calf pairs. As we move into the spring, these whales begin to feed closer to the surface and become more susceptible to ship strikes. Ship strikes are a significant source of mortality to these endangered whales. However, the lethality of ship strikes is greatly reduced when vessels are operating at less than 10-knots speed.
For more information regarding the management of protected marine species in Massachusetts, please visit our website (www.mass.gov/marinefisheries) or call DMF at 617-626-1520. More stocked ponds in Rhode Island as trout season opens April 7
The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announced that Rhode Island trout stocked lakes, ponds, rivers and streams opened for fishing on Wednesday, April 7. The trout season in Massachusetts has been open.
Late last week DEM announced that as a result of improved water level and access conditions, three additional fishing areas were stocked for the opening of trout season. They included Lake Tiogue, Coventry; Spring Grove Pond, Glocester; and Wallum Lake, Burrillville.
DEM’s Division of Fish and Wildlife is stocking over 60,000 hatchery-raised rainbow, brook, golden rainbow and brown trout in more than 100 waterways across the state. In addition, 4,000 Sebago salmon will be stocked statewide. Where’s the bite?
Freshwater trout season opened Wednesday, April 7, see above links to Rhode Island and Massachusetts stocked ponds. John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside, said, “When anglers are getting out (cold weather detriment for some) they are catching largemouth in the two pound range. Not a lot of large fish being taken. One customer was doing well fishing Bad Luck Pond, Rehoboth where he caught a couple of three pound fish.” Tom Giddings of the Tackle Box, Warwick, said, “Customers are doing well with pickerel and pike and Sand Pond and Little Pond in Warwick. They are taking pike on shiners and largemouth working slow moving spinners and jigs.”
Tautog fishing opened April 1 with a 16-inch minimum size in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. There is a three fish/person/day limit from April 1 to May 31. Tom Giddings of the Tackle Box said, “Customers are starting to target tautog, not a lot of anglers actually fishing but an awful lot of them are getting ready as the weather warms up.” “Not many customers are targeting tautog yet, but I expect with this warm weather this week anglers will be getting out,” said Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick.
Cod fishing. Elisa Cahill of Snug Harbor Marina said, “Customers have successfully targeting both cod and tautog south of Block Island this week.” “A few customers are catching cod off Newport, the water there seems to be the right temperature for cod.”, said Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle. Party boats fishing for cod (weather permitting) include the Frances Fleet at www.francesfleet.com, the Seven B’s at http://www.sevenbs.com, and the Island Current at www.islandcurrent.com.
Dave Monti holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. He is a RISAA board member, a member of the RI Party & Charter Boat Association, the American Saltwater Guides Association and the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at dmontifish@verizon. net or visit www.noflukefishing.com.
On the South Fork of Long Island, we all know about yearly brownouts during peak demand for power in the summer. Indeed, energy demand on the South Fork is growing at almost twice the rate of the rest of Long Island.
And now we have witnessed the power outages in Texas during freezing weather. With decades of neglect of their power grids, refusal to update the necessary infrastructure, and an ill-advised policy of not building connections with out-of-state grids, many lives were lost and the economic fallout is still unknown.
Locally, two major blackouts in 1965 and 1977 paralyzed New York City and exposed the vulnerability of the power grid. The full story can be read by Googling “Gaslights to Generators,” a September 2002 article on New York City’s energy history by Meryl Feiner.
Long Island is in a precarious situation in terms of meeting growing energy demands. Historically the Island has not produced sufficient energy, and thus it imports energy from elsewhere. But with solar and now wind energy sources, this is about to change. There are plans for 4,000 megawatts from wind farms off Long Island shores and 130 megawatts from the South Fork Wind farm, the project that is furthest along.
An interesting article in Newsday by Mark Harrington, updated on Feb. 24, discusses a NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) report on the required updates to the grid and the infrastructure required to manage the massive new clean energy sources being planned. Harrington quotes Tom Falcone, chief executive of the Long Island Power Authority, saying, “As you put more and more offshore wind onto the grid, think of it as water pipe. At some point you reach the limit, so in order to have more offshore wind you have to upgrade the pipe.”
If we do nothing, the report indicates, there would be a need for “curtailments,” or intentional power outages.
The total cost of the required infrastructure updates would be about $1.5 billion. The upgrades include building a 345,000-volt circuit from LIPA’s newly built Shore Road substation in Glenwood Landing to the substation in Melville, an upgrade of the South Shore transmission grid (already in process), conversion of an existing 138,000-volt transmission line in Levittown to 345,000 volts, a new interconnection line between the LIPA and Con Edison systems, solar power upgrades of various substations, and improvements that are either already part of LIPA’s capital budget or have already begun, such as upgrading transformers and switching gear and substations to higher voltages.
A full list of LIPA’s transmission system and distribution system projects was presented on Feb. 24 at the LIPA trustee meeting. The slide deck can be found at lipower.org.
I asked some experts the following question: Would these grid upgrades also be required if the source of the required extra energy were solely fossil fuel generated, and to what extent are the costs a result of converting to clean energy?
“It is clear that we need to increase the capacity and resilience of the Long Island grid, so let’s get to work on the immediate upgrades and retrofits necessary within the current infrastructure,” said Mariah Dignan of Climate Jobs NY and the Climate Jobs NY Education Fund. “But as we begin to realize the clean energy economy, we will need bulk power transmission and distribution voltage upgrades over the next decade to handle offshore wind generation, increased electrification, and a better flow of renewables from upstate to downstate and vice versa. These investments will pay off for decades to come, and labor is fighting to ensure this transformation creates good union jobs and protects Long Island ratepayers.”
Gordian Raacke, the executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, said that if the same amount of capacity would be interconnected at the same locations, similar grid upgrades and costs would be needed for fossil fuel versus renewable energy. But it is also fair to say that fossil fuel generation could be located in other parts of the state, while offshore wind resources would have to be interconnected along the shore.
In addition, he said, there are several misunderstandings that need to be cleared up. First, the potential transmission and distribution upgrades are not associated with the South Fork Wind farm but with all of the offshore wind farms that would be connected to the Long Island grid, as well as the interconnection of distributed solar and energy storage projects. These costs would not be borne exclusively by Long Island ratepayers but shared across New York State. These are potential projects identified in studies and proposed for study. LIPA does not believe that all of these “possible transmission projects” will be built. And last, most of the transmission projects would not be needed until 2025 through 2035.
Gordian has often reminded us, from the beginning, that the energy infrastructure must be renewed or replaced regardless of wind farms. This is a really costly undertaking, and it’s terrific that PSEG is proposing to make it a statewide charge to ratepayers.
Good vibrations: bladeless turbines could bring wind power to your home
‘Skybrators’ generate clean energy without environmental impact of large windfarms, say green pioneers
The giant windfarms that line hills and coastlines are not the only way to harness the power of the wind, say green energy pioneers who plan to reinvent wind power by forgoing the need for turbine towers, blades – and even wind.
“We are not against traditional windfarms,” says David Yáñez, the inventor of Vortex Bladeless. His six-person startup, based just outside Madrid, has pioneered a turbine design that can harness energy from winds without the sweeping white blades considered synonymous with wind power.
The design recently won the approval of Norway’s state energy company, Equinor, which named Vortex on a list of the 10 most exciting startups in the energy sector. Equinor will also offer the startup development support through its tech accelerator programme.
The bladeless turbines stand at 3 metres high, a curve-topped cylinder fixed vertically with an elastic rod. To the untrained eye it appears to waggle back and forth, not unlike a car dashboard toy. In reality, it is designed to oscillate within the wind range and generate electricity from the vibration.
It has already raised eyebrows on the forum site Reddit, where the turbine was likened to a giant vibrating sex toy, or “skybrator”. The unmistakably phallic design attracted more than 94,000 ratings and 3,500 comments on the site. The top rated comment suggested a similar device might be found in your mother’s dresser drawer. It received 20,000 positive ratings from Reddit users.
“Our technology has different characteristics which can help to fill the gaps where traditional windfarms might not be appropriate,” says Yáñez.
These gaps could include urban and residential areas where the impact of a windfarm would be too great, and the space to build one would be too small. It plugs into the same trend for installing small-scale, on-site energy generation, which has helped homes and companies across the country save on their energy bills.
This could be wind power’s answer to the home solar panel, says Yáñez.
“They complement each other well, because solar panels produce electricity during the day while wind speeds tend to be higher at night,” he says. “But the main benefit of the technology is in reducing its environmental impact, its visual impact, and the cost of operating and maintaining the turbine.”
The turbine is no danger to bird migration patterns, or wildlife, particularly if used in urban settings. For the people living or working nearby, the turbine would create noise at a frequency virtually undetectable to humans.
“Today, the turbine is small and would generate small amounts of electricity. But we are looking for an industrial partner to scale up our plans to a 140 metre turbine with a power capacity of 1 megawatt,” says Yáñez.
Vortex is not the only startup hoping to reinvent wind power. Alpha 311, which began in a garden shed in Whitstable, Kent, has begun manufacturing a small vertical wind turbine that it claims can generate electricity without wind.
The 2 metre turbine, made from recycled plastic, is designed to fit on to existing streetlights and generate electricity as passing cars displace the air. Independent research commissioned by the company has found that each turbine installed along a motorway could generate as much electricity as 20 sq metres of solar panels, more than enough electricity to keep the streetlight on and help power the local energy grid, too.
A scaled down version of the turbine, standing at less than 1 metre, will be installed at the O2 Arena in London where it will help to generate clean electricity for the 9 million people who visit the entertainment venue in a usual year.
“While our turbines can be placed anywhere, the optimal location is next to a highway, where they can be fitted on to existing infrastructure. There’s no need to dig anything up, as they can attach to the lighting columns that are already there and use the existing cabling to feed directly into the grid,” says Mike Shaw, a spokesperson for the company. “The footprint is small, and motorways aren’t exactly beauty spots.”
Perhaps the most ambitious divergence from the standard wind turbine has emerged from the German startup SkySails, which hopes to use an airborne design to harness wind power directly from the sky.
SkySails makes large fully automated kites designed to fly at altitudes of 400 metres to capture the power of high-altitude winds. During its ascent the kite pulls a rope tethered to a winch and a generator on the ground. The kite generates electricity as it rises into the sky and, once completely unspooled, uses only a fraction of the electricity generated to winch back towards the ground.
Stephan Wrage, the chief executive of SkySails, says the airborne wind energy systems mean “the impact on people and the environment is minimal …The systems work very quietly, practically have no visible effect on the landscape and barely cast a shadow,” he adds.
Today, the design can generate a maximum capacity of 100 to 200 kilowatts, but a new partnership with the German energy firm RWE could increase the potential output from kilowatts to megawatts. A spokesperson for RWE said the pair are currently looking for the ideal kite-flying site in the German countryside.
Offshore wind is having a moment, and none too soon.
For years, it’s been clear that embracing green forms of energy like wind and solar is key to fighting climate change, which increasingly threatens our region. Now, with the auspicious alignment of recent developments, the winds of change are blowing mostly in the right direction.
Progress has been substantial, as far as it goes. There’s still lots to do. For all the plans announced by state officials, all the interest from offshore wind companies, and all the contracts signed, we still have to:
build the facilities to manufacture wind farm components,
improve port infrastructure in Brooklyn and Albany so those parts can be shipped,
construct the wind farms off Long Island and lay the cables to deliver the energy that will reduce our dependence on greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels,
set up training programs for workers who will maintain the farms, and
develop the maintenance hubs for those workers.
Delays will be inevitable. Perseverance and communication will be critical. If the permitting process can be responsibly streamlined to allow the consideration of local objections but not let them grind progress to a halt, do it. But baseless NIMBY concerns, like those raised by some Wainscott residents against the landing of an underground cable in that South Fork community, cannot be allowed to derail this fight that’s vital to the health of our region.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo set the stage with lofty goals: 9,000 megawatts of wind power by 2035 and a carbon-free electrical grid by 2040. With recent awards to Equinor of two more wind farms, generating 2,490 megawatts and joining three other farms already awarded, the state is nearly halfway to its target. Also announced: an agreement with Equinor to build the nation’s first manufacturing plant for offshore wind towers and transition pieces, at the Port of Albany, with finished components to be shipped down the Hudson River. Prompt completion would position New York as a manufacturing hub for the industry in the Northeast and bring hundreds of good-paying jobs and precious revenue, all of it eagerly sought by other states in the region. Stony Brook University and Farmingdale State College are developing flexible programs to train and certify offshore wind industry workers.
The Biden administration’s commitment to offshore wind and its appointment of Long Islander and former Cuomo aide Amanda Lefton to head the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the agency that oversees the development of offshore wind, are promising. BOEM under the Trump administration stymied offshore wind; now it likely will advance delayed environmental reviews and reconcile differences with New York over suitable offshore wind areas and get them leased.
There’s a lot at stake in the state’s overall green energy program, besides the juice capable of powering 6 million homes. Cuomo says it also will create more than 50,000 jobs and attract $29 billion in private investment. Good environmental policy is good economic policy, too.
Let’s keep moving forward, and keep the winds of change at our backs.