This article was written by Mark Harrington for Newsday.
New York State on Friday said it finalized contracts for two of the largest offshore wind projects to power the state grid, with pacts that Gov. Kathy Hochul said will bring billions in new investments while costing customers around $1 a month.
The two projects, by Norway-based Equinor, had been awarded a year ago, but the state hadn't signed the contracts, as Newsday reported earlier this week. Equinor, during that year, decided to scrap a previous plan to use massive concrete foundations dropped onto the ocean floor to support the turbines, which are just under 1,000 feet tall.
Instead, it decided to pile-drive foundations into the ocean floor, a move that some environmentalists criticized because of potential impacts on whales and other wildlife. Equinor has said the work will take into account those concerns.
In all, the state's contracts for offshore wind now number five projects in "active development," Hochul's office said, with just over 4,300 megawatts, or enough to power some 2.4 million homes.
"We’re going to create the necessary ecosystem so that all of the supply chain can be made right here," Hochul said Friday morning at the Port of Albany, home to a planned offshore wind tower manufacturing plant.
Hochul's announcement Friday came amid a flurry of wind-energy activity this week, including the federal government's decision to hold a lease auction for six new wind-energy areas in the waters off Long Island and New Jersey in a section of the Atlantic known as the New York Bight. U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm attended Hochul's announcement.
And construction on Long Island's first contracted wind farm to power the South Fork could start this week with the awarding of a multimillion-dollar contract to Melville-based Haughland Energy to build the land-based portion of that 130-megawatt project's cable and substation infrastructure, employing more than 100 union workers.
Signing the Equinor contracts activates the company's plan to build a wind-tower manufacturing facility in the Port of Albany, paid for with public-private funding of about $357 million. Equinor also will build an offshore wind-staging and assembly facility at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal.
In all, Hochul's office said, $8.9 billion will be spent and more than 5,200 jobs created as part of the two projects, which will feed the New York electric grid at a Long Island Power Authority connection point in Long Beach and another via Long Island Sound into Queens.
The state said average customers' bills will increase by about 0.8% as a result of the new energy sources when they are in service by the mid-2020s, a calculation officials said amounted to 95 cents a month. Energy from the facilities will cost $80.40 a megawatt hour. The two projects have a combined output of some 2,490 megawatts, a critical component of the state's goal of 9,000 megawatts of wind energy by 2035.
Hochul last week announced a $500 million investment in offshore wind ports, manufacturing and supply as part of her State of the State address.
The state also is advancing a plan for an offshore wind training institute. The first round of competitive awards under the $20 million plan includes a grant totaling $569,618 to Hudson Valley Community College in Troy and LaGuardia Community College in Queens to "support early training and skills development for disadvantaged communities and priority populations," Hochul's office said.
Stony Brook University and Farmingdale State College, which are partnering with the state in the training institute, already have or soon will have certificate or degree programs for offshore wind training. And Suffolk County Community College plans programs with a $10 million grant from Orsted.