Offshore wind projects may add new economic power to the New York waterfront.

Energy Blog: Wind and the Harbor

May 5, 2022

by Jeffrey Winters

New York City contains multitudes. It’s not just the people, though I like to say that there is someone here from every village on Earth. It’s that there’s a little bit of everything here.
 
For most out of towners, New York is Midtown and Times Square, all concrete, glass, and steel. But it’s also a beach town, with places such as Rockaway Park feeling more like a laid-back New England seaside towns than part of the nation’s largest city. There are still factories within the city limits as well as tracts of suburban-like housing. There’s even a small agriculture sector, though it’s mostly on rooftops rather than fields. About the only thing we’re missing is the purple mountain’s majesty.
 
One often-overlooked segment of the city is the harbor. I lived for a while a few blocks from the water in a Brooklyn neighborhood that once thrummed with longshoremen, but when I was there the docks were usually quiet. The containerization revolution of the 1970s and 1980s was incompatible with Brooklyn’s close-in, 19th century dock-and-warehouse infrastructure. Container ports need hundreds of acres to stack up those steel boxes and road and rail links to swiftly carry the cargo away. The docks in Brooklyn and Manhattan were designed to serve the people and industry in the immediate vicinity. They were built when sacks and crates were lifted in cargo nets.

See the Infographic: Recycling Wind Turbines
 
The harbor still sees a lot of ship traffic. Those container ships have a terminal on the New Jersey side of the harbor, and ferries, sight-seeing boats, oil tankers, and any number of other commercial boats ply the waters on a given day. My son attended a high school that specialized in training students for maritime trades, everything from aquaculture to vessel operations.
 
My son graduated a couple years back, but students now at the school recently attended a career fair where they learned about a new industry for the harbor: the offshore wind power industry.
 
The Atlantic coast off Long Island features strong steady winds and proximity to some of the most electricity-hungry parts of the United States. So, it’s natural that wind energy companies are setting up shop in New York and New Jersey to tap into that resource.
 
One of those companies, the Norway-based Equinor, is in the beginning stages of building a $200-million project to upgrade a section of the Brooklyn waterfront. The plan is for this 73-acre area in Sunset Park to stage and assemble giant wind turbines and their towers, in preparation for them to be erected on three sites off the coast of New York. The first of the wind farms is planned to be ready to produce as much as 816 MW of power by 2026.

More on Wind Power: Vertical-Axis Wind Turbines Work Well Together
 
All told, the offshore wind projects off Long Island will be rated at 3.3 GW and could supply more than one-third of New York City’s average electric demand when the wind is strong. That’s a little misleading, however, since the times of peak wind are at night in the winter and spring when electricity demand is minimal, and the times of peak demand—like a summer afternoon in August—have very little wind. But considering most of the electricity consumed in New York City at present comes from fossil fuel-fired power plants now that the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant has closed, every bit of renewable electricity is welcome.
 
From a personal standpoint, the redevelopment of the waterfront to industrial, rather than recreational, use is just as exciting. New York City contains multitudes, and I hope that industry—especially the renewable power industry—can have a home here for a long time to come.

Jeffrey Winters is editor in chief of Mechanical Engineering magazine.
 

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