Fractivist Folly: The Long Island Wind Project

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The success to date of fractivist opposition to gas drilling in New York is leading them to place more faith in folly such as the Long Island Wind Project. 

Our readers keep sending along great stuff, including this recent article from NY Environment Report entitled “Wind Farm Off Rockaways Moving Forward After Gas Port Vetoed.” It was predictable, of course, the fractivist cocky meter would go into the red zone after their success in shutting down Port Ambrose through a very effective lying campaign about it being a secret export facility in the making. It wasn’t, of course, and that’s why it was hard to sympathize with the developers, who stupidly thought they could buy off the fractivists by pointing out they were the alternative to fracked Marcellus Shale gas.

Fractivists, of course, can’t be bought because, for them, it’s a matter of religious faith – natural gas of any kind is the witch’s brew and renewables are salvation. Their Port Ambrose win has now emboldened that faith and a new campaign of fractivist folly is being launched in support of the Long Island Wind project, which is been around since at least 2009 but hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s another boondoggle in the making.

Long Island Wind Project

The Long Island Wind Project is discussed here and in a 2009 feasibility assessment. It is described as follows in the NY Environment Now news story (emphasis added):

The largest offshore wind farm in the U.S. is now one step closer to being constructed off the Long Island/Rockaway coast. Until recently, a natural gas port had been proposed for the same section of ocean. Surprising many, Governor Cuomo vetoed -and effectively killed- the gas project last month.

Less than a year ago, the Cuomo administration banned high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York as a means to extract natural gas. Similar to the debate on fracking, public opposition to the gas port became part of a larger discussion about New York State’s energy policy and how the state should respond to climate change.

The proposed wind farm is certainly in keeping with the state’s goal of cutting carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. The farm could create enough electricity to power an estimated 245,000 homes. To do that, almost 200 3.6-megawatt wind turbines -yielding as much as 700 MW of energy– will be constructed 13 miles off the Rockaway Peninsula.

Note the careful “as much as” qualifier attached to the 700 MW of energy brag. We learn the truth about that from the FAQ portion of the project website, which says this:

The Long Island–New York City Offshore Wind Project is proposed for 350 megawatts (MW) of generation, with the ability to expand to 700 MW, giving it the potential to be the largest offshore wind project in the country. A 350 MW wind facility operating at 40 percent of its capacity would generate about 1,226,000 megawatt-hours per year, enough energy for about 112,000 homes.

The current project is, in other words a 350 MW one, not 700 MW and the actual electricity expected to be generated is more like 140 MW, but even that’s based on a 40% capacity factor that magically jumped up from 30% according to the 2009 feasibility assessment. The capacity factor for wind in the US, according to the Energy Information Administration was only 28.2% in September and averaged 34% for 2014, so 40% is a stretch, suggesting the project proponents are doing their best to make it look good. Moreover, the capacity factor for a combined-cycle gas plant, by contrast, was 62.0% in September and averaged 48.3% for 2014, meaning the Long Island Wind Project, if it’s ever built, will take anywhere from 20% to 120% more rated capacity to deliver the same amount of electricity as a combined cycle gas plant.

It will also occupy a much bigger area.

A combined cycle gas plant capable of producing the same 140 MW of net electricity generated as the project developers say it will produce, would take a 290 MW rated facility. Such a facility can be designed to fit on a floating barge (see here and here, for example). Here, in fact, is a picture of two floating 171 MW combined cycle gas plants built by Waller Marine that, together, would more than supply the same amount of electricity on barges of 100 feet by 300 feet in size located close to shore where the cost and efficiency of transporting the electricity to where it’s needed would be far, far less than the Long Island Wind Project.

Long Island Wind Project

Compare that to area needed for the roughly 75 or so wind turbines required to do the same thing. The optimal separation distance for wind turbines is seven rotor lengths according to this study and this math indicates each, therefore, will require a little over nine acres of ocean or a total of more than one square mile. This apparently doesn’t account for several factors, though, as the Long Island Wind Project studies indicate a 700 MW rated wind project would occupy a 65,000 acre (101 square miles) area.

Presumably, not all of that area would actually be used for wind turbines but it would be impacted, which brings up something our friend Pat Leary brought to our attention about a 2010 proposal to meet all of New York City’s electric needs with wind, which, according to this study, would require the use of 4,000 or so turbines and 1,600 square miles of the ocean. The same analysis concluded a 300 MW facility would require a 25 square mile area, so we can safely conclude a 350 MW Long Island Wind Project would occupy somewhere in the vicinity of 30-50 square miles or roughly 18,500 times the area of a floating combined-cycle gas plant.

Pat also graphically illustrated just how much ocean would be taken up in windmills if wind was used to meet all of New York City’s electric needs:

Long Island Wind Project

Yes, it would take up an area much larger than the city itself, as much as roughly half of Long Island if it was put on land. Think that doesn’t matter? Well, you haven’t dealt with wind power NIMBYs like I have. The FAQ page provides a hint of what will happen when this fractivist folly actually gets some sea legs:

Q: Why did the offshore wind project LIPA announced several years ago not move forward?
A: On August 23, 2007, LIPA terminated the project to install 40 wind turbines off the coast of Jones Beach.  Main reasons cited included strong opposition from local groups due to its close proximity to land, the rising cost of the technology at the time, and poor economies of scale.

That opposition isn’t going away and some of it will, I predict, come from the very same people who oppose fracking. The economics aren’t that great either, with off-shore wind producing levelized costs some 3.4 times those for a combined cycle gas plant, as this chart illustrates:

Long Island Wind Project

Finally, let’s take a quick look at why project proponents say this folly is so wonderful:

Q: What are the expected environmental benefits of the offshore wind project?
A: The New York Public Service Commission estimates that every megawatt-hour of displaced fossil power in the state is equivalent to 900 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2). Therefore, a 350 MW wind facility would displace about 540,000 tons of CO2 annually, equivalent to removing 120,000 cars from local roads. New renewable resources will help meet the New York State Master Energy Plan, any potential federal renewable energy goals, and provide for added fuel diversity. In addition, since the New York City and Long Island regions of the state are in a federal non-attainment zone, the project would help meet ozone and other local emission challenges.

Sounds just wonderful doesn’t it? Well, not exactly. As we explained in this post, a comparison of 94 MW coal plant in Northeastern Pennsylvania with another recently converted 130 MW combined cycle gas plant produced a CO2 reduction of 602,000 tons or roughly 7,500 tons per MW. That means converting one 72 MW coal plant to combined cycle gas would produce as much CO2 reduction as this proposed Long Island Wind Project. Put another way converting 350 MW of coal generated electricity with to gas would save 4.9 times as much CO2 reduction as this project.

Once again, we see the fractivist folly on full display. Nothing I’ve said will change fractivist minds, though, because it isn’t about facts, logic or reality, especially in New York. Rather, it’s all about political correctness, being “on the right side of history” and other such self-righteous pap. It’s a religion for them and none shall question it.

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6 thoughts on “Fractivist Folly: The Long Island Wind Project

  1. Interesting. Here’s my perspective: First off I would recommend people read the former FERC commissioners speech early this year to the press as she discusses in general the things that need to be and are weighed for energy projects of all kinds: cost, reliability and impact. There are other things in the speech as well such as natural gas pipeline siting, opposition and climte goals.

    Just as there is a certificate process with FERC for interstate pipeline projects there is a process with BOEM for the offshore wind farm. That process ideally is supposed to involve real stakeholder input along with environmental review. The stakeholders already include consumers, regional business groups, fishing interests etc.

    What’s the problem with the antifracking activists and their approach to process, stakeholders and public input? Well their track record with both the rockaway and port ambrose proposals but not limited to them is that they hijack processes in order to promote themselves and their views, they believe they are the only important stakeholders or barrel over others and their definiton of “the public”is themselves and a busload of their friends. They care little about real input and instead as their toolkit for public engagement involves mostly misinformation.

    The public requires real information as do other stakeholders, and a real opportunity for input. They get neither from the antifracking movement. BOEM’s process at least in terms of needing input can be viewed as similar to FERCs.

  2. Here are some interesting comments from the Sierra Club (which purports to represent the interests of 36,000 people by the way) on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Notice: Lease Availability: Wind Power Development on the Outer Continental Shelf Offshore New York which you might find interesting:

    “By contrast, the benefit from the proposed LNG import
    terminal is uncertain. DOMESTIC GAS CAN BE MOVED THROUGH PIPELINES without the significant
    adverse climate impact of liquefaction and re-gasification, which greatly increases the carbon
    impact of the fuel.”!documentDetail;D=BOEM-2013-0087-0006

    Interestingly the Sierra Club along with other groups used the BOEM process both to comment on the windfarm against the Port Ambrose project in more than step.

  3. “Offshore wind development in the Call Area also poses the potential for conflict with existing recreational and commercial fishing practices, and we encourage a comprehensive consultation and analysis of those potential conflicts to ensure the most expeditious and responsible siting of wind facilities in the Call Area. Ultimately, we believe these potential conflicts may be adequately addressed through the wind energy ‐4- area identification process and appropriate mitigation measures. By contrast, the proposed Port Ambrose liquefied natural gas terminal fundamentally conflicts with wind energy development in the Call Area, potentially creating exclusionary zones in the most accessible, cost-effective portion of the potential lease area. The proposed Port Ambrose facility would substantially undermine the prospects for successful wind energy development in the Call Area, and we strongly support prioritization of offshore wind facilities over a natural gas IMPORT terminal.” nrdc, riverkeeper, and friends from 2014.

    So I wonder how it is that the Sierra Club also produced this which said Port Ambrose would boost regional fracking?

    I guess like I said the environmental groups don’t exactly have a stellar record at telling the truth and certainly don’t mind being in alliances with people creating conspiracies and hocking nonsense– lets call those people the antifrackers.

  4. Pingback: Offshore Wind Is Off the Charts Political NonsenseNatural Gas Now

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