No! to New York Wind in the Great Lakes (NYS Energy Research and Development Authority verdict)
By Sherri Lange — January 9, 2023
It’s “No Go” to industrial wind in the Lakes controlled by New York State, the result of 18 months of consultations with
- Canada, Ontario, Quebec, Pennsylvania, and Indigenous Nations (via the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force, or HETF)
- Transmission experts
- Wildlife consultants,
as well as numerous public comment periods.
No ‘Right-wing’ conspiracy here. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) reached the conclusion that the Great Lakes in its jurisdiction need ongoing protection. From a letter from Governor Hochul’s office to a community member and Great Lakes Activist:
On December 30, 2022, NYSERDA filed the New York State Great Lakes Wind Energy Feasibility Study and supporting technical reports as directed by the New York State Public Service Commission’s October 15, 2020 Order, and a NYSERDA White Paper that provides additional analysis around the role of Great Lakes wind projects in the context of New York State’s renewable energy portfolio and pathways to reach New York’s Climate Act goals.
The White Paper concludes that Great Lakes wind development is expected to cost more than other competing renewable energy options and highlights other considerations and data gaps that introduce risk and uncertainty to cost estimates, project development certainty, interconnection opportunities and resources. At present, Great Lakes wind does not offer a unique, critical, or cost-effective contribution toward the achievement of New York’s Climate Act goals. More information can be found on NYSERDA’s Great Lakes Wind Study website.
The full decision mentions other problems and cautions (see the quotes below and reference the link to the White Paper for a full description of the 12-step investigation and conclusions).
ONE: “Great Lakes Wind does not provide the same electric and reliability benefits that offshore wind offers New York State.”
TWO: “The cost differential from other sources of renewables, do not fully account for additional costs associated with interconnection, infrastructure, and labor, which would require site-specific evaluations and more detailed modeling.” (Great Lakes Wind projects would be roughly 55 to 230 percent more costly for ratepayers.)
THREE: “The Feasibility Study demonstrates that the visual impacts of Great Lakes Wind, at least in Lake Erie, would be considerable given the need for a relatively limited distance from shore necessary to support a project at scale in that lake.”
FOUR: [This item combines impacts of wildlife and sediment contamination] “The impact of Great Lakes Wind on wildlife species and the environment; this issue is exacerbated by the lack of data relating to the temporal and spatial distributions of wildlife both at specific locations and across the Great Lakes as a whole, including data on aerial fauna, fish habitats, benthic communities, and human uses. Further, sediment contamination is widespread but not well mapped to support least impact site identification. And the extent and duration to which Great Lakes Wind development could resuspend or redistribute these contaminants are uncertain. Each of these issues imparts development risks and uncertainties to potential projects.”
FIVE: “To date, NYSERDA has not received bids from Great Lakes Wind projects in response to its series of annual Tier 1 solicitations.”
SIX: “After completing the Feasibility Study and considering these various dimensions collectively, NYSERDA recommends that now is not the right time to prioritize Great Lakes Wind projects in Lake Erie or Lake Ontario.”
SEVEN: “NYSERDA has not identified unique characteristics of Great Lakes Wind that reflect a component otherwise missing in the State’s efforts to achieve the Climate Act goals.”
EIGHT: “At this time, there is not sufficient available information to thoroughly assess the impacts Great Lakes Wind may have on wildlife and each lake presents different risks regarding data gaps.”
NINE: The study notes that “further identification of areas with chemical contamination and higher resolution of contamination distribution mapping would be helpful to assess impacts of proposed projects should Great Lakes Wind Energy move forward. These types of studies could be conducted in advance of siting or be undertaken as part of the regulatory process after sites have been proposed. Mitigation methods would also need to be considered and developed, depending on the findings of site-specific assessments.”
TEN: “Taking no action now does not mean there may not be an opportunity to advance Great Lakes Wind at some point in the future. The resource may become a feasible contributor to New York State’s goals in the future as the State advances toward its mid-century goals, and the Ohio demonstration project in Lake Erie discussed herein may provide further information to help inform a decision on this matter. Additionally, upgrades in the transmission system or new interconnection opportunities could result in lower costs or create opportunities. Finally, additional studies could be undertaken to reduce environmental risk and gain a better understanding of the estimated cost and benefits of building Great Lakes Wind projects as alternative resources advance toward achieving the mid-century Climate Act goals.”
The significance of this “future looking” White Paper, cannot be overestimated. This is a cautionary signal of the risk of grandiose government-enabled, greenwashing projects to look before you leap. The economics are terrible and the ecology problematic–and this is true for proposed projects on each coast.
This is also the verdict of grassroots activism against duplicating the grid in such poor fashion. Real environmentalists, the common kind, are standing up. (Washington, DC and paid local activists, please note.)
It is laudatory that NYSERDA’s White Paper confirms what other studies, even from Ontario, Canada, ascertained. Now, will New York State legalize the expansion of natural gas by either in-state drilling or certifying new pipeline projects? And back off of the unrealistic and costly state climate plan? Sustainable energy, after all, must be plentiful, affordable, and reliable.
[Originally published at Master Resource.]