Wind Works for New York Health, Jobs, and Economy

By Julie Tighe | October 10, 2023

Climate change is a right-now problem; not something that only future generations should be concerned about. Earlier this year, our skies were apocalyptic orange, and just last week, torrential rain and flooding turned our subways into waterfalls and our streets into rivers. Children were even told to shelter in place at school. The ways and pace at which our climate is changing are evident – that is why 80% of New Yorkers consider climate change to be a serious problem.

We have been talking about climate action for a long time, and right now New York is on the precipice of delivering on that action. To do so, we need renewable energy injected into the electric grid – and soon. We can’t reach any of our climate goals without a grid founded on clean energy. This needs to include offshore wind to be successful.

New Yorkers deserve better than the fossil fuel system we’ve known for generations. Beyond the impacts of extreme weather events driven by climate change, fossil fuels and the pollutants they bring into our communities on a daily basis also have long-term public health detriments. Burning fossil fuels does not just pollute the earth’s atmosphere, it also sends harmful particles into the air we breathe every day. Doctors say that we can reduce the risk of developing asthma, heart and lung disease, and cancer by switching to clean, pollution-free renewable energy like offshore and onshore wind, and solar.

In the long term, using clean, locally-sourced energy will also lower utility bills and protect consumers from the spiking prices that come with relying on fossil fuels. Once constructed, renewable pricing is stable. Sunshine and wind never get more expensive. New York can create good-paying union jobs across the state in the process of building a reliable, local, renewable energy grid.

For the sake of our safety, our health, our jobs, and our pocketbooks, we need to build utility-scale solar and wind, including offshore wind, to free New Yorkers from the roller coaster ride of fossil fuel power.

Today, New York’s downstate region is lagging behind in the transition to clean energy. Approximately 90% of electricity in downstate New York comes from burning fossil fuels, while upstate New York’s grid is mostly emissions-free. New York City and its densely populated suburbs in Long Island and the Hudson Valley need to catch up through a combination of transmission of renewable power from upstate and innovative offshore wind development.

To jumpstart clean energy production downstate, we must look to the sprawling oceans that lie beyond our shorelines.

Offshore wind can provide a 100% carbon-free energy source to New Yorkers by harnessing the consistent winds that run across the ocean. Building offshore wind will bring downstate New York into the clean energy future, and cut air pollution, while creating thousands of good-paying, local union jobs in the process. Union construction workers are already training for the specific skills needed to safely construct and maintain offshore wind turbines.

In the coming weeks, New York State leaders will have two significant chances to show their commitment to developing offshore wind and renewable energy.

First, New York’s Public Service Commission is meeting soon to discuss addressing inflation for offshore wind and onshore renewable energy projects. Like all industries around the globe, solar, wind and offshore wind are dealing with Covid-related delays, rapidly inflating costs of materials, and supply chain constraints. The state must grant support that is sufficient to ensure a robust cadre of projects are able to be built.

Second, the state will be awarding solicitations for the third round of offshore wind projects. This is a prime opportunity to take bold action and award contracts for multiple projects to ensure New York meets its goal of 9 gigawatts of offshore wind power, especially since we know that upwards of 16 gigawatts of offshore wind will be needed to fully decarbonize the grid and our economy.

Thousands of New Yorkers would benefit from the good jobs and economic stimulus created by offshore wind construction projects. Millions more would receive clean, affordable, reliable energy as a result and get to breathe cleaner air every day, but only if New York continues to be a leader on renewable energy.

To use a football analogy, it is fourth and 1 and we cannot punt on our health – we urge the Hochul Administration to be bold on offshore wind and renewable energy.

Julie Tighe is the President of the New York League of Conservation Voters.