If you heard that New York City and Long Island were going to benefit exclusively from something, and that residents of upstate New York were going to share in the costs, your natural reaction might be, “Tell them to choke on it.”
But when it comes to the development of wind energy off the coast of Long Island, this is one situation in which the upstate-downstate battle needs to be put aside for the greater good.
The Rockland/Westchester Journal News reported Thursday that state energy ratepayers would be sharing the cost of a $2.1 billion offshore wind-power plan that calls for the installation of nearly 200 giant wind turbines 20 miles off the Atlantic Coast of Long Island.
The turbines will initially generate 800 megawatts of offshore wind energy over the next two years, with the eventual goal of creating 2,400 megawatts of energy by the year 2030. That would be enough to power 1.2 million households in New York City and Long Island.
To help pay for the wind power, New York’s ratepayers could see an increase in their electric bills of up to 76 cents per month by 2020, and perhaps more as the project expands. They wouldn’t, however, get any of the energy generated.
But to say that all New Yorkers wouldn’t benefit from the project is to ignore the long-term economic and environmental benefits.
The project is expected to create thousands of jobs for New Yorkers through the construction and installation of the turbines. Job creation in any part of the state filters to all state residents through a better overall economy and more tax revenue for the state.
In addition, the wind project will contribute to the state’s $6 billion wind-power industry, helping generate and retain jobs in other parts of the state.
As for the cost to upstate New Yorkers, 76 cents a month works out to about $9 a year on an annual electric bill, hardly a cost most people will notice.
The more of these projects that get built toward the state’s goal of having half its energy produced by renewables by 2030, the lower costs will go.
And none of the economic value begins to address the environmental benefits of pure, clean wind energy over less-clean alternatives such as hydrofracking for natural gas and the burning of other fossil fuels. Even a tiny substitution of clean energy for greenhouse gases helps reduce global warming and curb climate change.
New Yorkers will have to decide whether they want to continue down the path of energy dependency on fossil fuels and nuclear power, or whether they want to support the shift toward renewable sources like wind and solar.
It won’t come without a financial cost.
But in the end, New Yorkers might well find those costs to be worth it.