Image from http://www.offshorewind.biz/2013/11/20/ewea-financiers-able-to-invest-eur-123-bln-in-offshore-wind/ - a recently installed offshore wind farm near shore with gravity foundations in the Baltic Sea.
Long Island is one of the more populated places in the US - an island 118 miles long by up to 25 miles wide that is home to almost 7.4 million people. In many ways, this is a barrier island with its own barrier islands that protects the shores of Connecticut. Most of those living on Long Island live on the western edge (Brooklyn and Queens); it used to be home to a lot of farms supplying NY City with food (eastern side). And potentially this is also the source of much of the electricity for its residents via wind and tides. There is a very significant tidal resource on the north side of the island (Long Island Sound), from 1300 square miles of water averaging 63 feet in depth. And even though is it is generally pretty shallow, possibly on the order of 1 GW on an average delivered basis (a 3 to 7 ft tidal range - see http://www.lisrc.uconn.edu/coastalaccess/facts.asp) could be extracted from the tidal ebb and flow, especially since lots of water that gets funneled through some relatively small channels (see http://www.lipower.org/pdfs/company/papers/report-wave0107.pdf). The waters tend to be quite shallow around this island (except on the northeastern and eastern edge and in a region called The Race, partly due to tidal scouring. Most of the island is around 20 feet above sea level, though some parts near NY City are over 400 feet asl. This island will not fare well when the Greenland ice sheet collapses and raises seal levels by 20 feet…..
But hopefully, that fate, brought on by Global Warming, is not going to happen for a few decades. If it does, the extreme rich of the Hamptons and the less well off in Brooklyn and Queens will then find themselves in the same proverbial boats, but as for the size of those boats, the residents of Hamptons win the "bloated boat" contest, easily… and the "Hamptonian flotilla" will be so much more luxuriant, of course.
There already was an attempt to do a 140 MW offshore wind farm in the waters to the south of Jones Beach (southeast of JFK airport) in the early 2000's, but this efforts was abandoned when costs skyrocketed, the winner of the bid (Florida Power and Light, alias FP & L) showed little interest in it, and the effort had provided many NY politicians with sufficient "environmental cover", where they could pretend they were all about job creation and electricity not made via coal, oil, gas or nukes. At the time, natural gas was quite pricey, but the newly elected Democratic Governor decided to can the project in 2007 (http://www.enn.com/top_stories/article/22224) when it was announced that average ratepayer expenses would rise by $2.50/month after the capital costs of the project had ballooned to $697 million (nearly $5 million/MW), with a possible higher level of $811 million ($5.8 million/MW capacity). In the course of 5 years, the project had close to doubled in price..... Of course, to get this bid, FP&L underbid their competitor, Deepwater Wind - in other words, the (FR&L) lied their fool heads off, and were never held accountable for this lying. But then isn't that the tale of this millennium - lots of lying and swindling corporations making it bad for those who don't - a process described by Gresham's Law (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gresham%27s_law)….
Of course, later on in 2007, both natural gas and oil began to experience an incredible price rise, with gas prices more than tripling by June of 2008, and this doubled electricity prices for that year above an already high level. However, when the economy collapsed, so did gas and electricity prices (oil prices rapidly regained price after this epic collapse, which gas and electricity prices are still in the proverbial dumpster five years later). Since 2009, natural gas producers have lost $160 billion when they lost control of the ability to restrict production (a result of the contracts with financiers and the boom in fracking sourced gas), but as a consequence electricity has been cheap for the last 4 years; odds are, that is a very temporary phenomena. But, no one seems to feels sad for the gas "players"….
And last year, Long Island and NY City got a taste of a Global Warming based future, one that would be partly a result of natural gas combustion and leakages. It was only a $30 billion "oops" when the storm surge flooded the NY subway system and cleared out a lot of beachfront housing, much of which never should have been placed there in the first place. Oh well, it's not as if warnings were not issued beforehand…., and apparently no one really got the "memo" Frankenstorm Sandy delivered last year, at least based on actions to date with respect to renewable energy installations within NY State...
So why did offshore wind farms costs get so out of control back in 2006? Partly it was the price of steel (all commodities - but especially steel - went up in the 2005-2008 period), but mostly this was a matter of where the location was selected (far offshore), the type of turbine (at the time, 3.6 MW GE turbines with small rotor diameters (107 meters) that were not very efficient in tapping winds averaging 8 to 8.5 m/s) as well as the cost of transplanting the European installation infrastructure (jack-up barges, especially). For some reason, they chose to ignore the lessons already found in Europe - lower cost wind farms could be obtained using gravity (concrete) foundations versus steel monopoles for near shore wind farms, even if winds "were not the best possible ones" that tend to be located farther from shore and in deeper waters. And while this lower cost approach mandates wind farm installations in relatively shallow waters, there is no shortage of that near Long Island….
For example, the Nysted wind farm (165.6 MW) was built in the Baltic Sea near Denmark in 2004 in waters averaging 8 meters (26 feet) for Euro 245 million, or $US 320 million ($1.93 million/MW). It was built using Bonus (later acquired by Siemens) 2.3 MW turbines with 82 meter rotor diameters, a large unit for that time. However, it IS relatively close to shore (averaging 7 miles), so on those rare days when there is visibility, people can see tiny turbines in the distance spinning in the wind. The array even has its now offshore substation, and those also are quite pricey… It turns out that winds present a few miles south of NY City/Long Island are quite similar to those where Nysted is located (around 8.8 m/s average wind speed at hub heights).
But, it you want to hide wind turbines offshore so far that you need to get on a boat to see them, it's going to cost you something fierce. Deeper waters mean more expensive foundations, and electricity export cable installations are priced by the kilometer/mile. Farther offshore means more time for crane/barge transport, more expensive surveying, and bigger turbines don't seem to have much of an economic bargain to them, except that fewer foundations are needed. In addition, the net efficiency has an amazing effect on the electricity cost; installing turbines with the correct rotor diameter to generator size ratio is very important. Merely installing wind turbines with a high capacity but with too small a rotor blade is SO 20th century. So is placing the turbines too close together, where one "robs the wind" from down wind units…. BUt, if big turbines are your thing, here is the largest one ever installed to date (the Alstom Halaide 6 MW turbine, 150 meter rotor diameter, 28 miles offshore from Belgium and in about 34 meters (116 feet) of water depth… image from http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/alstom-completes-worlds-largest-offshore-wind-turbine-53126
Nearby to Nysted is the Rodsand 2 wind array, which was installed in 2010 (again, under budget), which is located about 6 miles from shore. It also uses 2.3 MW turbines but with taller towers/larger blades (93 meter diameters) than the ones installed at Nysted, and the net efficiency for this newer facility is 42.7% versus 36.1% for the earlier nearby one. The installed cost for Rodsand 2 was about $590 million, or $2.85 million/MW of capacity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_offshore_wind_farms_in_Denmark and http://www.4coffshore.com/windfarms/nysted-denmark-dk07.html).
So instead of going for the priciest arrangement, maybe NYPA and LIPA should have gone with the proven low cost route? The only drawback would be that people would get to see them. On the other hand, it would be another NY City based tourism event. I wonder if they have any other water based tourist type stuff going on in NY City…..? Maybe this could also fit in?
The Nysted and Rodsand 2 wind farms combined now deliver close to 150 MW of electricity into the Danish grid. Using newer turbines with greater "power ratios" (rotor swept area divided by generator capacity), net efficiencies of close to 50% should be possible, based on the wind resource of both the Baltic Sea and the Atlantic Ocean near Long Island. And for Denmark, these projects really delivered jobs galore, as the wind turbines were made in Denmark along with the foundations and substations. Essentially ALL of the jobs were for those either in Denmark or close to it; only some shipbuilding jobs were done outside of Europe. For these two projects, about 13,650 job-yrs of direct employment resulted, and more than that once all the multiplier effects are added in. The electricity produced for these projects is sold without subsidy in Denmark under long term Power Purchase Agreements - ratepayers pick up the full tab. This electricity is blended into the electricity sold in Denmark, and at a 10% discount rate as the money cost for these projects, has an average production cost of around 9 c/kw-hr.
So let's extrapolate to the NY City/Long Island regions, and do a bit of Science Fiction - let's assume that people (and this only applies to "important, well-connected people") won't really mind if they see wind turbines a few miles offshore, spinning in the breezes, assuming bad weather or fog or the fact that it is night is not preventing that visualization from taking place. Let's also assume that a single ring of wind turbines around 80% of the coastline of Long Island gets installed, perhaps by order of invading aliens form outer space (how else would such a sensible idea be allowed to proceed in the NY State of 2013?). What would that do for things?
image from http://a1.mzstatic.com/nz/r30/Purple/v4/c3/1a/d1/c31ad194-dd1e-9d71-c330-866dd6818f87/screen480x480.jpeg
The perimeter of the island in gross terms is around 290 miles, though the actual length of coastline is near 900 miles. On the south shore are some large inland bays protected/formed via barrier islands, especially Fire Island. If 80% of that island perimeter was available for near shore wind turbines, that's a row of them around 232 miles long. If they were spaced apart at an average of 1/4 mile, that would be 928 possible wind turbines. If each one was 3 MW and had a 112 meter rotor length (power ratio of 3.28 m^2/kw), this would be a rated capacity of 2784 MW. With a conservative output estimate of 45%, this would be roughly 1.25 GW of delivered electricity, or roughly 12.5% of the combined average consumption of NY City and Long Island.
At $3 billion per GW of capacity ($3 million per MW), the installed cost of this arrangement would be around $8.4 billion, which is SIGNIFICANTLY less than a nuke that could deliver that amount of electricity. Of course, nukes and Long Island don't really mesh well - there is simply no way to evacuate so many people (7.4 million) in a rapid time period, and to where, too? At 15,000 job-years per billion dollars invested, that is roughly 125,000 job years of direct employment, somewhere. Of course, the trick is to make that "somewhere" the USA, and preferably within NY State. It's around a $3 billion order for just the wind turbines…..
Probably THE best way to keep the electricity production cost low would be to employ the municipal ownership (LIPA, NYPA, etc) model, and to finance this via low cost, low risk, long term bonds. IF (as in a BIG "if"), most of these bonds were purchased by NY State residents, this would actually have an amazing stimulative effect on the NY State economy. For example, with 4.5% bonds issued for 25 years (equivalent to a 8.5% discount rate), bondholders would get as income $376 million each year - money that would otherwise get sent out of state for natural gas purchases at a price of $5/MBtu (an optimistically low gas price for that length of time). This money would be paid by electricity consumers in the NYC-LI region. In effect, money would be recycled from ratepayers to bondholders and then back into the regional economy, instead of being "hoovered" out of state for fossil fuel purchases. Their cost of electricity production from this effort would be roughly 8.5 c/kw-hr. After 25 years, they would also get their initial investment back, and during those 25 years, some provision for paying that money back would need to be undertaken, rising the "discount rate" to around 8.5%. That cost to produce this electricity (using a 2c/kw-hr "O&M" rate) would remain constant for the next 25 years. That is about half of the cost of electricity initially proposed for England's new twin nuke debacle with a 35 year long PPA (15c/kw-hr at 35 years for a $26 billion facility to make an average of 2 GW)…. When the recycling of the money (ratepayers to bondholders back to the regional economy) and the one-time job creation (foundation manufacture, wind turbine installation), the benefits of such an economically stimulative project would be even greater that just the fact that constant priced, reasonable priced electricity that avoided the money export from NY State to import methane into NY State occurred.
Anyway, this is how affordable, renewable non-risky and non-polluting electricity could be obtained for the NYC-LI region. Or electricity at close to 3 times the price could be obtained by using private corporations to own wind farms placed far offshore, presumably with essentially all imported mega-scale wind turbines on imported steel foundations. This would also create a minimum number of NY jobs, and sometimes that seems to be the point of proposed offshore wind projects in NY State. And how revolting and myopic is that piece of obsolete thinking, anyway.
image from http://www.eon.dk/upload/eon-se-2-0/Bilder/toppbilder-500x210/vindkraft-till-havs-500px.jpg
But, the real purpose of proposing expensive offshore projects seems to be to justify the installation of and continued operation of new gas fired and fracking gas consuming generation facilities. The hyper-expensive offshore projects that might result in an absolute minimum of NY employment and which would need massive tax avoidance incentives and very expensive long term PPAs would benefit some NY investment banks (directly or indirectly, as they would loan money to other banks to loan money to the project developers/installers) and some hedge fund investors, but not many others. And the projects should get cancelled like they always do because the electricity is too expensive. But, that CO2 pollution, money bleed to buy out of state natural gas made via fracking and the increasing financial toll caused by nasty weather and ocean level rise would certainly be preferable to seeing (occasionally, by a small percentage of NYC-LI residents) how some of their electricity electricity is made…
Yeah, right. And if you believe that one, there's a seedy looking guy that wants to sell you title to the Brooklyn Bridge, for real cheap, and we all love the outrageously high real unemployment rates throughout NY State….