New York calls for fast-tracked renewable power projects

On the sixth day of Christmas, NYSERDA gave to me: Boosts for new renewables

New York calls for fast-tracked renewable power projects
This photo is totally wind-related. I’m great at this.

2023 has been a year of wild ups and downs for the particular type of climate dorks who get really excited about building big stuff. This holiday season, keep us in your thoughts and prayers. It’s rough out there.

On November 30, NYSERDA let drop an exciting bit of news on the building-big-stuff front: The state is calling for a new round of proposals for both offshore wind and land-based renewable power projects to be submitted by late January, and is promising to speed up the bidding process for projects that get chosen.

“NYSERDA is streamlining these expedited solicitations by selectively removing certain bid requirements that historically required substantial efforts to develop, but provided nominal value in bid evaluations,” the state energy authority says in a press release.

Not mentioned in the press release: The recent woes of the beleaguered offshore wind industry in New York.

Rising interest rates and supply chain issues have created trouble for several large offshore wind projects in the works. And recently, local opposition on Long Island has put the brakes on a major project: an undersea transmission cable to carry offshore wind power into the NYC area. Local opponents of the project cited environmental fears in an effort to shut the project down, even while climate-focused environmental groups lobbied for it. In October, Gov. Kathy Hochul took the Long Island project opposition’s side, vetoing a bill that would have allowed the transmission cable to proceed over local objections.

Another issue for the emerging offshore wind industry: New York needs a lot of onshore port infrastructure to support the buildout, and most of it isn’t built yet. There’s a terrific story in City Limits this week about the bottlenecks in port infrastructure buildout in Albany and the New York City metro area that threaten to hold back the acceleration of offshore wind.

As the pace of renewable buildout picks up, opponents of renewable energy projects across the country are leaning heavily on local fears about projects’ environmental impacts, making it difficult to sort out which critics are acting in good faith, and how valid their claims are. Solar and wind projects do have impacts on the landscape, on habitat, and on wilderness — and also, there’s an emerging cottage industry of “woke-washing” faux-environmental groups popping up, which are only too happy to channel ordinary people’s conservationist impulses into the broader goal of shutting down local wind and solar power. Some of them are funded by fossil fuel interests, as climate reporters Michael Thomas and Emily Atkin reported in a 2022 investigation.

It’s tough to get anything large built these days. The stakes for offshore wind are high: If New York can’t get enough of it built, the state’s climate targets will be very tough to meet.

In a grid where renewables play a major role, wind and solar are complementary. Wind power tends to ramp up when solar power is ramping down, and vice versa. Because they tend to operate best at almost directly opposite times, they can solve a lot of grid problems that neither solar nor wind can solve alone. Check out this graph from the renewable power market company LevelTen Energy, which shows wind power in Europe peaking during times that solar dips:


Because solar and wind are both necessary in order to build a balanced renewable-heavy grid, New York won’t be able to hit its goal of a zero-carbon electrical grid by 2040 just by building a lot of solar power — or even new solar, nuclear, and battery storage, plus a planned new transmission line that will link up New York City with massive hydroelectric dams in Quebec that act like energy-storing batteries, and another that will link the city to upstate hydropower and land-based renewables.

Despite the state’s other zero-carbon resources, sunless nights are long — and New York will need wind too. In order to get away from its heavy reliance on fossil-gas-fueled electrical power, New York City is going to need a lot of offshore wind on hot summer nights — and increasingly, as electric heat pumps replace gas furnaces, on cold winter ones.

I’ve used this NYISO chart on the newsletter before. I’ll do it again. Look at how stark this is. Upstate NY’s electrical power supply is almost entirely zero-carbon, and downstate’s is almost entirely fossil-fueled. If there’s another place in the US where the “tale of two grids” within a single state is this stark, or where a single city is as isolated from the rest of the state by extreme transmission bottlenecks, I’m not aware of it. Source:

Proposals for NYSERDA’s current round of bidding are due on January 25, 2024 (for offshore wind) and January 31, 2024 (for land-based renewables). It’s coming up soon — and so are New York’s climate targets.

On the sixth day of Christmas, NYSERDA gave to me:
Boosts for new renewables
Coal country dollars
Local energy grants
Climate banking guidance
And a cap-and-invest study