12/31/12

EANY: Facts on Offshore Wind Development

From Environmental Advocates of New York:

Why Develop Offshore Wind?
  • In order to cut the CO2 from mining and burning fossil fuels, that is driving climate change, New York must move its energy infrastructure to renewable sources.
  • Polluted air from burning fossil fuels causes asthma, chronic lung ailments and other serious health threats. Wind energy generates zero air polluting carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and hydrocarbons.
  • The New York Independent System Operator, responsible for the state’s energy distribution system, projects $300 million in energy savings for every 1,000 megawatts of wind power produced.
  • The fossil fuel market is volatile: low prices today could skyrocket tomorrow. The cost of offshore wind, determined based on the lifetime costs of building and operation, can be locked in for 20 years.
  • Clean wind energy development promises jobs in manufacturing, construction, engineering, operations and maintenance. A planned Long Island wind development could generate 8,700 jobs and $610 million in annual wages.
How many installations does it take before consumers begin to see a difference?
    What is the energy potential of wind power?
    • New York State has enough offshore wind energy potential to meet its total current demand for electricity times four.  The U.S. Department of Energy predicts that offshore wind could produce more than 4,000 gigawatts of domestic energy.  One gigawatt of power could run a medium-sized city of about 750,000 homes.
    What about the ocean view?
    • Offshore wind turbines are about 278 feet tall with a blade span diameter of 360 feet. While the visual impact depends on many variables, including how far from land the turbines are sited, the depth of the water and the number of installations, most installations are about 15 miles out to sea, in water 60–120 feet deep, which dramatically reduces their visibility from land. 
    Won’t superstorms like Sandy destroy turbines?
    • Offshore wind turbines in the North Sea are built to withstand 90+ mph winds and 15-foot waves. 
    What are the economic benefits of offshore wind?
    • In addition to direct customer savings, offshore wind can potentially create 20 jobs per megawatt per year and be a part of revitalizing the U.S. manufacturing sector.   A 350-megawatt project in New York City/Long Island would generate an estimated $1 billion in consumer energy sales, 8,700 jobs, and $610 million in annual wages.
    Won’t the turbines obstruct fishing and shipping lanes?
    • Not if they are built with the careful planning that any infrastructure project requires, including input from the shipping and fishing industries. To date, there are no reports of ships running into wind turbines. And wind farms are far less harmful to wildlife than transporting and consuming fossil fuels.
    How is wind development financed?
    • Nearly half of the cost of developing offshore wind is in manufacturing the turbines, which are getting cheaper to build all the time. Other costs depend on how far out the turbines are sited and how deep the water is. The initial installation costs are significant. It takes $5.5 million in investment to generate a megawatt of wind energy, not including the cost of upgrading the broader system to deliver the wind power to customers.  According to the March, 2009 Joint Con Edison-LIPA Offshore Wind Power Integration Project Feasibility Assessment, upgrading the system to deliver 350 megawatts of wind power would cost $415 million.
    How will consumers be affected?
    • New York City and Long Island have some of the highest electric rates in the country. Plugging offshore wind into the grid will lower and stabilize energy prices over time.
    Why subsidize this industry?
    • Remember that American taxpayers have been subsidizing the fossil fuel industry for over a hundred years. Fossil fuel subsidies are much bigger than those available for renewable energy development.  Long-term taxpayer-funded fossil fuel subsidies have masked the true costs of fossil fuel production and made the fossil fuel industry look more sustainable than it really is. 
    What are the environmental benefits of offshore wind?
    • Offshore wind generates zero air or water pollution or waste products. A wind turbine can create enough clean electricity to keep 110 million pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere, as well as 400,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide and 150,000 pounds of nitrogen oxide pollution – acid rain components. Mining, drilling, transporting and burning fossil fuels are all destructive to the environment. Offshore wind would be part of an infrastructure solution to curbing climate change and modernizing the energy grid.
    How will developing offshore wind affect climate change?
    • One 350-megawatt wind facility would have an effect equivalent to taking 120,000 cars off of local roads.
    Why talk about offshore wind but not land-based wind?
    • It's not an either-or decision. The system should include both land-based and offshore wind, but offshore wind has advantages over land-based wind, including higher winds capable of meeting peak demand and installations close to major population centers.
    What is the difference between the Investment Tax Credit and Production Tax Credit, and why should we care if they lapse?
    • The investment tax credit is a federal income tax deduction that a wind farm developer gets based on the amount of capital invested in a wind farm. The production tax credit is an income tax deduction the developer can take when the wind farm produces energy.
    Is anything being done to help develop offshore wind?
    • This month, the federal government announced $28 million in funding to support the development of 12 offshore wind farms. Upstart investment and support is critical to getting wind producers connected to the grid.   
    Can voters help promote wind development?
    • Yes. Ask Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and your local member of Congress to make the Investment Tax Credit and Production Tax Credit programs permanent.

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