Good morning. Today we’ll look at what a wind farm in the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island could soon mean for consumers who use electricity. We’ll also find out the origins of this year’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
Credit…Joe Buglewicz for The New York Times
In a few weeks, some consumers in New York could be using electricity produced by a wind farm in the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island — the first such development in New York State.
They won’t notice a difference. Their televisions and toasters will operate the same way they do now, on electricity produced at plants that use natural gas.
But this first step toward harnessing ocean wind as a source for electric power — and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions — comes as the wind-power industry faces a crisis. Obstacles to projects in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have delayed those states’ hopes for wind’s potential as a renewable resource.
For now, New York’s best bet for entering the era of offshore wind power is stacked on a pier in Connecticut — the launching point, not for a spacecraft, but for that first wind farm. My colleague Patrick McGeehan said the pier had the surreal look of a sci-fi movie, with some of the outsize parts lined up like rockets awaiting a countdown. I talked with him about the challenges of moving those components to their destination off Long Island, and also about the challenges states face in switching to wind power.
The future for offshore wind farms suddenly seems less certain than it did just a few months ago. Some wind projects in the New York area have been canceled recently. What was behind the decisions to call them off?
Global inflation and supply disruptions have driven up the costs of constructing these massive projects. That has led the companies that build them to plead for bigger subsidies and, in some cases, to pull out altogether.
Last month Orsted, a Danish company, canceled two big projects it was going to build off the coast of New Jersey.
That move came shortly after regulators in New York refused to revise contracts with the developers of four wind farms off Long Island. Those companies wanted New York to pay considerably more than it had agreed to — $12 billion more — for the electricity the wind farms would generate. The companies said that without the increases, they might not be able to build the wind farms. Those projects were integral to New York’s goals for shifting to renewable sources of energy.
What happened with the contracts?
New York is planning to put them out again this week and take new bids for supplying that wind power. State officials hope to stay on track toward their goal of getting nine gigawatts of power from offshore wind by 2035. That would be enough electricity to power about 4.5 million homes.
But some industry analysts have expressed doubts that New York can meet that ambitious target.
So why is Orsted going ahead with this South Fork Wind project?
South Fork Wind is much closer to completion than the others were. Construction is already underway and is scheduled to be finished sometime early next year, but some power is expected to start flowing next month.
That could make South Fork Wind the first to turn ocean winds into electricity for thousands of homes anywhere in the country. It’s a joint venture between Orsted and Eversource, a regional utility company.
What’s involved in setting up the turbines?
Crews are planting 12 turbines on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean more than 35 miles east of Montauk Point on Long Island. Each turbine is as tall as the General Motors Building across from the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. Each one will have three blades as long as a football field.
Once the turbines are in place, the workers will connect them to a substation, which is linked to Long Island through a cable on the ocean floor. At the other end of that cable is the power grid that distributes electricity to homes and businesses.
The turbines will generate power for New York, so why are the parts being shipped from Connecticut?
For this project, the State Pier in New London made sense for two reasons. It is closer to the site than any other port large enough to hold all the components. And there are no bridges between there and the ocean that the turbine towers would have to squeeze under.
New York has big plans for developing an offshore wind industry of its own. The state has committed $300 million toward factories in the Albany area that would make turbine parts so that they would not have to be imported. It also plans to create a hub for offshore wind at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
How realistic is the goal of getting electricity from the first South Fork turbines by the end of the year? How many turbines are scheduled to be ready by then?
Orsted officials are still promising that power will be flowing from at least one of the turbines in 2023. They plan to connect them one at a time and say they expect to have at least a few online by the end of December.
The key factor is the weather out on the water, especially when it comes to installing the blades, which are like giant sails. What I’m saying is it can be too windy, on many days, to build a wind farm.
It will be a mostly sunny day with a high near 40 degrees. The evening will be partly cloudy, with temperatures in the low 30s.
In effect until Dec. 8 (Immaculate Conception).
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Destination: Rockefeller Center
In June, a man pulled into a driveway in Vestal, N.Y. The homeowner, Matt McGinley, figured the visitor was a real estate broker interested in the house.
The man in the driveway had his eye not the house but on the 80-foot-tall spruce in the yard. The man in the driveway was Erik Pauze, the head gardener at Rockefeller Center and the person who chooses what may be America’s most famous Christmas tree every year.
Jackie McGinley said her husband had scoffed when Pauze explained who he was and why he was there. But she took Pauze’s business card inside and searched online for the name on the card. “Up popped a profile, and the picture of the person in the profile matched the man in my yard,” she said. She gave Pauze her telephone number.
Soon he was back — “watering the tree, feeding the tree, climbing the tree,” he said.
And then he decided it was the tree. It was cut and taken to Rockefeller Center, where more than 50,000 multicolored LED lights were strung on its boughs. It was topped with a nine-foot Swarovski star.
The lights are to be switched on tonight, “a few minutes before 10 p.m.,” according to Rockefeller Center’s website. WNBC-TV will carry a live broadcast at 7 p.m., followed by a network program beginning at 8 p.m. (A pro-Palestinian community group, Within Our Lifetime, said it would hold a rally at Rockefeller Center beginning at 6 p.m. “Flood the tree lighting for Gaza,” the group said on Instagram.)
So what about the McGinleys’ own holiday tree?
Jackie McGinley said the family usually went to a tree farm. “We are not as skilled at cutting down our tree as the folks from Rockefeller Center,” she said. “It took them about a minute. It takes us about 20.”
But this year, they bought an artificial tree. “It breaks my heart,” she said, “but we discovered last year that I have pretty severe allergies to pine trees.”
I was working the box office at an Off Broadway show when my boss told me a celebrity guest was expected to attend that night’s performance.
By the time the show was about to start, no celebrity had shown up. Then, with a minute to go, in walks in a man I recognized as the actor Paul Sorvino and an entourage of three.
“Oh, hello, Mr. Sorvino,” I said. “The show’s about to start. I’ll lead you to your seat.”
The man appeared slightly flustered.
“My name is Aiello,” he said. “Danny Aiello, young man.”
I’m still smarting.
— Scott Colder
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].