Congress members urge Cuomo to fund Sunset Park offshore wind hub

Middelgrunden offshore wind farm is pictured outside Copenhagen
Two Sunset Park Congress representatives are urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to help fund a wind turbine assembly plant at a southern Brooklyn port.
REUTERS/Andreas Mortensen

Congress members Nydia Velázquez and Jerry Nadler urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a letter to fund the infrastructure improvements necessary to build an offshore wind plant in Sunset Park.

The request comes as the state is evaluating proposals for its 2020 Offshore Wind Solicitation, which asked energy companies to submit plans to build offshore wind farms for the state’s consumption, along with turbine manufacturing plants and a shipping yard within the state.

The winning proposal, which will be announce later this year, will not only increase the state’s dependence on clean energy, but will create thousands of manufacturing jobs, according to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the agency overseeing the bidding process.

One of the three eligible bids, put forward by the Norwegian energy company Equinor, names Sunset Park’s South Brooklyn Marine Terminal — a largely unused 72-acre lot just south of Industry City — as its proposed assembly and shipping site.

If NYSERDA selects Equinor’s bid, the state will spend $200 million, matched by $200 million from private firms, to upgrade 65 acres of the southern Brooklyn port into a viable port and factory space, where workers will build wind turbines from parts that are manufactured upstate.

The plant’s turbines would be shipped to two energy farms located off of Long Island and Nantucket, which will begin producing 816 megawatts for New York City beginning in 2024, according to Equinor. These two farms won a separate New York State clean energy bid last year. 

The turbines would also be used in Equinor’s two proposed wind projects, Empire Wind Phase 2 and Beacon Wind, which will be built if the company wins the upcoming 2020 bid. Together, the two new wind farms would produce enough power to light half a million New York City homes.

Sunset Park locals have argued that the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal is the perfect place for the assembly plant because of its industrial history and a local need for well-paying, sustainable jobs. 

“It is an environmental justice community with three peaker plants, the Gowanus Expressway, two solid waste management plants, and a community that is at risk of extreme and recurrent weather events,” said Elizabeth Yeampierre, the director of the environmentalist group UPROSE. “In an industrial area, we need to be building for climate adaptation, mitigation, and resilience.”

Congress members Velázquez and Nadler, who represent Sunset Park, echoed those calls in their letter, saying that the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal is particularly well-suited for the improvements because of its deep waters and its close proximity to the offshore wind farms.

“The terminal is less than one day’s sail from each of the nine East Coast wind farm development areas designated by the Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management,” the pair wrote. “The Southwest Brooklyn waterfront in New York City’s Upper Bay has capacity for deep-draft vessels delivering components, and SBMT has more than seventy unencumbered acres for assembly and deployment.”

The plant would also bring thousands of jobs and needed economic renewal to the community, they added. 

“A project at SBMT will be part of the ecosystem of working waterfront we foster in Brooklyn,” wrote the pols.

The state funding, if granted, would add to the $57 million that Mayor Bill de Blasio promised the terminal in his State of the City address earlier this year. The city funds are also going to offshore wind staging, installation, and maintenance efforts. 

The port improvements comes as the state is trying to ramp up its sustainable energy infrastructure in accordance with the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which requires that 70 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable resources by 2030, and that at least 35 percent of benefits go to the communities most affected by climate change.

To reach its goals, state officials aim to develop 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy in the next 15 years, which is enough to power about 6 million homes.

Correction: A previous version of this article said that 11 ports are under consideration for the state upgrades. Although 11 ports are eligible for the upgrades because of their size and location, only the ports  listed as the proposed assembly sites in the three wind farm proposals under consideration by the state could receive the funding. The port that will receive the funding is the port listed as the proposed assembly plant in the winning bid.