Environmentalists call on state to invest in Sunset Park offshore wind energy hub

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams pleads for funding for the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal at an Oct. 28 press conference.
Photo by Rose Adams

Sunset Park environmentalists and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams are calling on the state to invest $200 million into the improvements needed to turn a local port into a thriving offshore wind energy manufacturing hub.

The upgrades would allow the largely unused 72-acre South Brooklyn Marine Terminal to house a bustling wind turbine assembly hub that would create thousands of jobs and more than 1,500 megawatts of clean energy — enough to power half a million homes for 20 years, according to the state

The city-owned South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, which is operated by a partnership between Industry City and the Red Hook Container Terminal, is one of several ports competing for the state funds. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), which is in charge of the bidding process, will select winners later this year.

The bid for the Sunset Park port was put forward by Norwegian energy company Equinor, which plans to use the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal as an assembly site for the turbines in its two offshore wind farms off of Nantucket and Long Island. 

Equinor, which was selected for New York’s first offshore wind solicitation project last year, entered into an agreement with British Petroleum in September that allowed BP to buy 50 percent of non-operated interests in the assets of its two wind farms. 

Equinor’s South Brooklyn Marine Terminal site is facing off against 10 other ports for the state funding — including a 35-acre location in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and two sites in Staten Island. But Sunset Park environmentalists say that the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal is particularly deserving of the bid because of the community’s industrial history. 

“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.”

The funding 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 would go to offshore wind staging, installation, and maintenance efforts. 

The terminal, which is the largest industrial waterfront in the city, is the only site under consideration that wouldn’t require extensive reconstruction in order to accommodate the large vessels and huge assembly area of a wind turbine assembly plant, according to UPROSE.

Environmentalists added that the $200 million investment will help accomplish the climate goals established by the the state’s new 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 frontline communities.

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

At an Oct. 28 press conference outside of the port on 39th Street and First Avenue, activists and local officials urged the state to award the funds to the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal.

“This project that was put out by NYSERDA is exactly what this area was designed for,” said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. “We have the ability to be equitable and make sure that our environment is healthy. What better marriage could you look for?”