from http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/windmaps/offshore_states.asp?stateab=ny - your tax dollars at work
There are many famous sayings with respect to "too late". A classic is "shutting the barn door after the horse has got out". Or "better late than never", even if "it's all for naught but still for show". And that brings us back to the subject of offshore wind turbines and NY State. As you may recall, there was an initiative called the Great Lakes Offshore Wind (GLOW) project, which got canned this fall by the New York Power Authority (NYPA), or at least the NY State part of GLOW. The cancellation had a lot to do with political intrigues and personality clashes in the upper realms of NY's political bureaucracy and especially in that pot of gold known as the People's Power Company of NY - alias NYPA. NYPA is owned by the people of NY State via our state government - it is the biggest municipal electric utility (MEU) in our country. And due to the Niagara River and St Lawrence River power projects (NPP and FDR Dam), it produced an average of about 2200 MW of electricity at a cost of less than 0.2 cents/kw-hr, or about 7% of the low, low cost that NRG makes electricity at the old (76 years and counting) Huntley facility (COST is about 3 c/kw-hr, but that is not the PRICE that it gets sold at - the price is a bit of a random value). Note: NYPA also makes other electricity, but most of it is more costly to make, such as the natural gas sourced energy. And the electricity made at Huntley is made cheap, especially compared to natural gas sourced electricity. This low cost hydroelectricity is highly sought after and the subject of a lot of fighting over it, as well as impressive displays of ignorance on behalf of many local politicians, economists, businesspeople, the general public, too. More on that, in a bit...
Some of this super-cheap hydro-power is sold at cost (transmitting it costs about 10 times what the manufacture of it costs at these largely depreciated facilities) - mostly to municipal electric utilities in NY and 6 neighboring states, and some to local industries around here. However, some of it gets sold at "market rates", which can also be called "NYISO spot price", or "NYISO price". Last year the NYISO price in WNY averaged 3.92 c/kw-hr, so a tidy profit was made on this - for example, on the 58 MW average production from the Lewiston "pumped hydro" attachment to the Niagara Power Project, which acts like a giant battery (equivalent to around 4 million car batteries (100 amp-hr ratings)). Whatever electricity that is made but not allocated via a contract with a MEU or an eligible business can get sold at the NYISO rate, which varied from 1 c/kw-hr to 12 c/kw-hr last year in WNY, and that essentially all translates into profit for NY State via its NYPA subsidiary.
Anyway, a couple of months after the demise of NY part of GLOW (see http://www.wagengineering.blogspot.com/2011/09/offshore-wind-revisted-in-2011.html), along comes a bunch of well meaning people and well meaning organizations advocating for offshore wind development near Long Island - see http://www.offshorewind.biz/2011/12/22/new-yorkers-push-for-offshore-wind-power-usa/. Sure, they hit all the right buttons, and are to be commended for the general focus on job creation, but, the time for these sentiments was a few months ago, and doing this now is .... what? Maybe this is for show, or maybe regret at seeing the massive job creation going in in Northern Europe with their offshore wind energy efforts contrasted with the whole bunch of "nothing" going on in NY State? And that "nothing" includes no manufacturing jobs, no business opportunities, no investment banking, no marine construction jobs in the offshore wind biz, and lots of opportunities for environmental destruction via the "Swiss Cheesing" (fracking) of much of upstate NY. At a minimum, offshore Long Island will be much harder to do, as this is the THIRD attempt, and the unspoken hurdle to be overcome is "are you really serious, or just pretending, AGAIN?".
For example, before this can be seriously considered, somebody is going to have to put a deal with the purchaser(s) (for example, LIPA and/or Con Ed) for a fixed price/long term supply of electricity, the developer, their suppliers, engineering and environmental consultants, the project managers/planners/schedulers, the equity investors (typically 30% in Europe) and the bank consortia (which also means putting together this consortia, typically in for 70%). This offshore deal would involve over $1 billion INITIALLY, and to make any sense, it has to be a part of a continuing program of offshore wind projects. Just putting this deal together will cost lost of money, and involve facilitators (also highly compensated) such as these: http://www.green-giraffe.eu/
After all, placing big wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean in 30 to 50 meters of salt water subject to the occasional hurricane and 60 ft tall waves is not going to be cheap, nor will the electricity made by those turbines be cheap until the investment is paid off in 20 years or so. At least Lake Erie is generally less than 30 feet deep, alkaline fresh water and waves have never been reported to be more than 15 feet (30 feet peak to trough)...... Well, that 500 MW worth of projects (one of which could have been on Galloo Island in Lake Ontario, and thus pretty inexpensive) would have provided a nice "base" of suppliers, labor, consultants and engineering for the more difficult Long Island adventure, but, no go. Yes, you might need different models of turbines for the slightly less intense Great Lakes winds versus the slightly more intense Atlantic Ocean winds, but that's not a big deal - large wind turbines are customized somewhat to the wind resource. Now the Long Island project will be even less job creating, more expensive and more improbable WITHOUT the GLOW projects.
from http://www.offshore-power.net/Files/Billeder/scrobyaerial.jpg, the 60 MW Scroby Sands project in Great Britain (also owned by RWE)
If you look at the wind map at the top of the page, you will notice that the winds to the south of NYC and Long Island are in the 9 to 9.5 m/s range 90 meters above the average water surface (orange) or 8.5 to 9 m/s (purple). That is a righteously great wind resource, and with the correct turbines, would translate into at least a 45% net output for a set of turbines. At 9.25 m/s average wind speed, the probability of the turbines not making some electricity is less than 10.42%, while the chances that the wind speeds are too high is less than 5 hours per year. This covers about 4100 square miles on the wind speed map. And since about 10 GW of electricity is consumed in NYC and Long Island, and a decent sized (for example, the Nordsee 1 ~ 1 GW array - see http://www.rwe.com/web/cms/en/
from Hammerfest Strom, the manufacturer; this picture is of their 300 kw pilot unit that has been tested for 5 years in 50 meters of water (http://www.hammerfeststrom.com/products/tidal-turbines/hs300/). Yes, they are coming, and the big question is where they will be manufactured, and who will deploy them. Very fish friendly, too....
So, a nice $100 billion project, equivalent to 1.6 million jobs years, if we play our cards right, or about 80,000 direct manufacturing/construction/engineering jobs if conducted over a 20 year time interval. Odds are, the delivered electricity price would be less than would be the case if natural gas was used to make this 10 GW of electricity over the next 20 years, let alone the next 45 years. After all, prices for NYC/LI electricity would not rise significantly for 10 years, since the fraction of offshore sourced electricity would only be a small part of the supply mix until the 10 year mark is reached. And if you can predict what the price of natural gas would be in a decade from now, maybe you should also be continually winning big bucks from the NY Lotto .... as the only answer that makes sense for average future natural gas prices is "higher". Besides, those 80,000 jobs will spawn up to another 400,000 ones (the job multiplier effect).
Anyway, that quantity ($100 billion) money is now not a problem - after all, there is at least $2 TRILLION in corporate cash stashed in funds earning between 1%/yr to 3%/yr OR LESS in interest. That means that such a Long Island project would be putting less than 5% of that to work over time, but probably less than $5 billion/yr (for 20 years, that's the $100 gigabucks). And this is not money poured down a black hole, like it was for the $800 billion wasted (so far, but more expenses as the medical and other bills pile up) in the IraqNam FUBAR. This invested money would actually pay back the investor via sales of electricity, amortized over at least a 20 year period. A 7.5% ROI would be a big improvement on what they are in effect, paying people and hedge funds ("hedgies") to hide/handle. And of those 80,000 jobs, about 70% of them actually have nothing directly concerned with the wind turbine manufacture, too - most of the jobs would be associated with the foundations, construction and electrical transmission aspects. But, it would be a job creation machine the likes of which NY has not seen since WW2. And unlike the bankster jobs on Wall Street, these actually make the world a better place, and don't merely rearrange existing wealth mostly into the hands of some already really really rich people. oops, sound a bit like this article: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/12/18/1046522/-How-the-GOP-stole-America?via=blog_1.
Oh well, I guess people can dream; maybe that is what the new promoters of offshore Long Island are doing. But why just limit it to one spot in the state, which has weather patterns that tend to be different at any given time from eastern Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Spreading out wind farms over a wider area (and especially to areas with different weather patterns) means that less energy storage facilities have to be built for a given average delivered quantity of electricity. And here's something to think about - we have 800 MW of extra transmission capacity available in the Dunkirk, NY region, without any upgrading (such as via thicker wires, and upping the voltage from 230,000 volts to at least 345,000 volts). One new line from Dunkirk to Buchanan, NY (present site of Indian Point) could easily replace at least one of those nukes, and a pair of them could replace both of those pesky nukes. And, of course, this could interconnect several pumped storage potential sites in the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier. Such projects are also great for job creation, and these also will help staunch the export of money to pay for either imports of natural gas, or for the cleanup of Marcellus and Utica shale regions laid to waste via fracking.
Another nice thing that the new offshore Long Island groups are doing is to focus on the job creation potential of offshore wind turbines (and maybe, eventually, they will get around to Long Island Sound's tidal energy potential). This is the most immediate benefit of such projects; the benefits of the locally produced delivered electricity take a while to be seen/pay back. And since we are at least 1 million jobs shy of what we should have in NY State alone, the Long Island projects do seem like a great idea. But why be so limited? Think big, and not just at that one spot. Odds are, the new batch of offshore wind supporters are still thinking small - a few billion dollars worth - in effect, almost a "one-timer". That is just so myopic, and so wrong. With an attitude like that, Global Climate Change easily will put Long Island into "fish farm" status before decent amounts of electricity from offshore are being tapped for this part of our state. After all, when the Greenland ice-sheets slide into the sea in a process analogous to landslides, that will raise ocean levels by at least 20 feet.
It would be far less expensive to install these big turbines on land and design them for offshore mode, and let Global Warming do its thing. Unfortunately, that does not create the number of jobs that putting them offshore in the first place does. And maybe that sounds a bit too much like being an environmental surrender monkey. Of course, we won't really have that problem in the Great Lakes, which is another reason why installing turbines in lake Erie, Lake Ontario, in Long Island Sound and in the Atlantic alongside Long Island is the smart way to go. Lots of them.
Cheap Electricity and Job Creation
Once upon a time, when the electricity in Niagara Falls was more or less stranded via inadequate long distance transmission, cheap electricity and lots of it did lead to lots of manufacturing jobs. And as a result, this region prospered. But then a lot of the sort of/actual local companies got bought out, sometimes off-shored and Corporate America/Corporate World figured out how to extract maximum profits from these operations and that cheap electricity, or else they just dumped their relic factories and went elsewhere, or just cashed out. Then add in automation, and what used to be done by 30,000 people could be done with 3,000 or less. Plus, there is only 400 MW of electricity reserved for locally situated industries. If electricity is, in effect, a raw material, it becomes a major cost factor, and obviously cheaper electricity leads to either a lower cost product and/or a higher profit product when the product price is set by higher production cost manufacturers. For example, chlor-alkali, air separation, silicon/ferro-silicon manufacture, lots of ceramics and aluminum production all have electricity as one of the (or THE) major production cost factors.
But, when electricity consumption is only a tiny fraction of the production cost, and when the generated electricity is itself only a small fraction of the total delivered electricity price, the advantages of super-cheap electricity production vanish real fast. In many cases, the cost of the "overpaid" part of executive management often exceeds the cost of the generated electricity, so that department would seem to be a better spot to look for cost-cutting. In addition, for the next couple of decades, there will be more jobs obtainable from manufacturing renewable energy systems than in using electricity in jobs where the cost of electricity is a significant production cost. As for those believing that old-timey religion about cheap electricity providing mass quantities of high paying, local wealth creating jobs, they may never change their opinion, especially since religious beliefs can trump facts on just about any occasion. After all, in the last decade in NY, most jobs have been created where electricity is the MOST expensive, not least expensive. In fact, NYPA headquarters (in White Plains, NY, one of the more exclusive, expensive sub-urbs in the state) should be moved to Niagara Falls, where electricity as well as housing is cheaper (especially in the City of Niagara Falls), air conditioning loads are significantly lower, and where almost all the over $100,000/yr employees could be paid half of what they are now hauling in and still maintain the same standard of living). And what are they waiting for - for Hell to freeze over? So, the generated electricity price is a bit over-rated when it comes to attracting a lot of jobs. Besides, all those sever-farm jobs require a massive quantity of electricity per job, and yet there is no commitment to the manufacture of the servers in WNY, which is where some serious quantities of blue-collar employment could happen. But, that's a bit of a digression...
Which leads to the Big Quest conducted by Lilly Tomlin - "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe". When it comes to large scale energy issues in NY State by so-called "responsible parties" and our elected/appointed officials, we would have to advise Ms. Tomlin to steer way clear of "here". But, we could get lucky - maybe the Occupiers have paved the way, and the NY Lotto motto is actually in force - "Ya Never Know". And we do wish our "Offshore Long Islanders" the best; who knows, some of those scarce as hens teeth proverbial jobs might spill into WNY, too. But it would be nice if they realized there is more to the offshore story in NY State than that sandy outcrop in the Atlantic...