NEW YORK (AP) — Federal officials on Wednesday dedicated more than 125 square miles in the waters off the coast of Long Island for the development of commercial wind energy, pushing forward a renewable energy proposal initially created by New York utilities.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the state has "tremendous" offshore wind potential.
"Today's milestone marks another important step in the president's strategy to tap clean, renewable energy from the nation's vast wind and solar resources," she said in a statement.
The Long Island Power Authority, New York Power Authority and Con Edison initially went to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in 2011 with the proposal to build the farm in the Atlantic Ocean that would include up to 200 turbines generating about 700 megawatts of energy capable of powering about 245,000 homes. The price tag was estimated at between $2 billion and $4 billion.
Under federal regulations, the bureau had to open the bidding up, and at least five companies expressed interest in leasing the area for wind farm projects. An environmental assessment will now be completed to determine the effects associated with developing the farms. After that, leases will be given, though it's not clear whether one company will gain access to the entire acreage. The wind farm wouldn't be visible from shore.
Environmentalists praised the designation on Wednesday. Anne Reynolds, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York said the news was a crucial step. "Today's federal action is adding to the momentum for offshore wind development in New York," she said in a statement.
Conor Bambrick, air and energy director for Environmental Advocates of New York, said it sets the stage for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to carve out a "big role" for offshore wind as part of the state's clean energy standards.
Late last year, Cuomo rejected a proposal to build a liquefied gas terminal in the waters off New York and New Jersey, in part because he feared it would affect the proposed wind power project.
In January, the state established a $5 billion clean energy fund to encourage renewable sources of electricity such as wind and solar, part of Cuomo's plan to generate half of the state's energy from renewable sources by 2030.