In this interview NYSERDA’s VP of Large Scale Renewables outlines the current situation in New York State and explains how they are creating an ecosystem to facilitate successful OW projects
Doreen Harris is the Vice President of the Large-Scale Renewables team at the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA). Ms. Harris manages the centralized long-term procurement and strategic advancement of utility-scale renewable resources in New York under the state's nation-leading Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and oversees future policy design, program rule development, stakeholder outreach and market development mechanisms. Ms. Harris also leads the State's strategic effort to spur responsible and cost-effective development of New York's offshore wind resource. Ms. Harris received a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from the University of Rochester and a Master of Business Administration from the University at Albany.
New York Leads the Way
NYSERDA is at the center of a powerful nexus of forces pushing the US OW industry forward, despite the opposition of some of the higher levels of the US Federal Government. The industry is growing at a very rapid pace, and New York is leading the way, not just on offshore wind, but also with regards to other climate and clean energy advancements. In July 2019 Governor Cuomo signed into law the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which among other policies codifies a requirement for New York to receive 70% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2030, including a 9,000 megawatt offshore wind requirement by 2035, so this is by far the most substantial commitment to offshore wind of any US State.
Doreen Harris is tasked with ensuring that the State’s renewable programs are translated into action. “We see an unparalleled economic powerhouse with offshore wind, as an opportunity to bring a brand new industry to the US, and specifically here to New York. We see offshore wind bringing significant investments, not just in New York City and Long Island, but also well into upstate New York where we’ll see thousands of jobs in construction and manufacturing and Operations and Maintenance.”
NYSERDA has been working for many years to ensure that the state is ready to support this new resource, including from a planning, training and infrastructure perspective.
Do you think that the port facilities are adequate?
“The US certainly does have a multitude of port facilities that can serve this industry. New York actually began considering its port infrastructure a number of years ago when we were advancing the New York Offshore Wind Master Plan, which was issued in 2018. We began to inventory New York's port assets at that time and have continued with more detailed assessments of port availability, and it's actually really exciting, we have port facilities to facilitate all aspects of the offshore wind industry from a manufacturing staging, or operations perspective, all the way from Long Island up to the capital region, up the Hudson River. So, we have a very strong view as to the inventory of our assets and the aspects of the offshore wind industry that they can serve."
To further enhance the area's readiness, in his 2019 state address, Governor Cuomo announced that New York would invest up to $200 million in port infrastructure which will be used to unlock private capital that will bring long-term economic benefits to New York.
What about the negative attitudes towards Climate Change in Government?
Doreen Harris continues, "It is unique in that offshore wind, unlike other renewable resources in the US, does advance through both state and federal processes, where the federal government is responsible for leasing and permitting the projects, but the state is often responsible for advancing procurements to contract for the actual electricity from an offshore wind project. We've been working closely with the federal government and with many stakeholders to make sure those two processes are advanced responsibly, and in a manner that is consistent with the uses of the ocean and the planning needed to advance offshore wind. We believe we've actually advanced through our planning and our unprecedented outreach activities a very solid foundation to advance offshore wind, and are confident in the fact that our work will continue as these projects develop."
Project Delivery Issues
Project delivery looms large in NYSERDA's vision of future opportunities. At the same time as Governor Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act he also announced two awards to Ørsted/Eversource and Equinor for the 880MW Sunrise Wind Project and the 816MW Empire Wind project, which together total nearly 1700 MW of renewable power which makes it the largest renewable energy procurement in US history. This means that the market conditions are ripe for significant investment and development. Doreen Harris continues, "I think the biggest challenge that we will see moving forward will be the delivery of those projects, and really the effectuation of the domestic supply chain that we are looking to advance as well."
Asked if the many upcoming projects might cause bottlenecks and implementations problems, she agreed that there was a logistics challenge but looked to the experience of the European supply chain, with its decades of experience, to ensure that targets were met.
Do you think that the Jones Act is an issue in any way?
“What I’ve seen thus far is actually very creative solutions for Jones Act challenges on the part of developers and industry. We do not have Jones Act compliant installation vessels here in the US, but my view is that the collective demand of the states today is sufficient to allow investments in a Jones Act compliant vessel by a party, I believe it’s only a matter of time until that happens. In fact one of our Master Plan studies looked at what was needed in terms of market demand to build a Jones Act compliant vessel for installation, and concluded those investments do make economic sense.”
In the meantime developers are using creative solutions to address the challenge, such as feeder barges that can install OW turbines in the absence of a Jones Act compliant vessel.
What about the onshore infrastructure – will that be available to accommodate the new sources of power?
“Part of our work is to advance solutions from the perspective of transmission design and implementation that will make ready the grid for this amount of renewables again in these coastal communities. We have been looking at transmission approaches that can be used toward the advancement of our nine Gigawatt goal.” NYSERDA is planning for increased intermittency in the grid and intending to ensure that sufficient onshore infrastructure will be available when the offshore turbines are ready for grid connection.
NYSERDA's Mission for the Future
Doreen Harris concludes, “We recognise that offshore wind projects are in fact very complex marine infrastructure projects that are going to be many years in the making in terms of their installation and operations. When you think about New York State you should think about the many years of work that has brought us to this place, the comprehensive planning that we’ve undertaken over a series of years, which we believe puts us in a strong position to realize those goals and to realize those projects in a manner that is both cost effective and responsible.”
New York intends to place itself as an Offshore Wind leader, not only in terms of electricity generated, but also with regard to our approach to the development of hardware, skills and training within the US renewable marketplace.
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