New York State will invest $20 million into a new offshore wind training institute to be hosted by Stony Brook University and SUNY Farmingdale, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in his 2020 agenda on Wednesday, Jan. 8.
The institute plans to start accepting students in 2021, “when the industry is expected to need a significant number of new skilled employees,” according to the agenda. Cuomo expects the program to train 2,500 workers over the next five years.
“Through Stony Brook’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences programs, we are poised to start training a highly skilled engineering workforce, focusing on expertise required in today’s rapidly evolving clean energy landscape,” Interim President Michael Bernstein wrote in an emailed statement. “These include, among others, wind resource assessment, wind turbine and wind farm project design and optimization, offshore wind project economics, public policy, social acceptance and environmental impacts, as well as energy storage and grid integration.”
There are currently three wind farms being developed around Long Island. Two are off the coast of Montauk — South Fork and Sunrise Wind Farms — and one, called the Empire Wind Farm, stands off of the south shore by the East Rockaways. Sunrise and Empire wind farms represent New York’s first investments in offshore wind, and will cost more than 200 million dollars in state funds. According to New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the two farms will produce nearly 1,700 megawatts (MW) of energy — “the single largest renewable energy procurement by a state in U.S. history.”
The wind farms and coming institution are part of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to power New York on 9,000 MW from offshore wind farms by 2035. Over the summer, Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which mandates that 70% of New York’s electricity should come from renewable sources by 2030. Twenty six percent of electricity used in the state came from renewable energy in 2018, according to the New York Independent System Operator, the nonprofit corporation that runs the state’s power grid.
A Stony Brook University study, cited in a 2016 stakeholder review on offshore wind farms in New York, estimated that one wind farm producing 250 MW could create nearly 3,000 full time jobs. If those statistics are accurate, that means that Sunrise and Empire wind farms would produce more than 20,000 jobs.
Farmingdale State College President Dr. John S. Nader said in an emailed statement that “the environmental and economic benefits to Long Island and the region are vital to our future,” and the school’s work “in workforce development” will prepare the “economy for the future.”
Long Island fishermen, however, worry that the farms could affect their livelihoods. They point to cases overseas, where wind farms were built in prime fishing locations, and instances where windmills were placed too close together to navigate through them safely, making the area unfishable.
“The reality is that… they are putting [the windmills] in prime fishing grounds,” Bonnie Brady, the Executive Director of the Long Island Fishing Association, said. She advocates for 11 different gear groups in 14 different ports around Long Island.
The South Fork and Sunrise Wind farms are expected to power millions of homes in the Hamptons and the Town of Brookhaven, while the Empire Wind Farm near Long Beach is expected to power more than a million homes in Manhattan. The farms are anticipated to be operational by the mid-2020s.
Brianne Ledda contributed reporting.