Rosenberg: The promise of wind-power jobs: a cautionary tale

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Remember the name Clint Plummer?

Probably not.

Almost a decade ago he was vice president of development for Deepwater Wind, the Rhode Island based entity that had been designated to build 15 wind platforms 30 miles off Long Island’s Montauk Point, a 90-megawatt $240 million project entitled “The South Fork Wind Farm.”

As the company’s representative, he toured the Island telling labor, government, and media that Long Island’s economy would directly benefit from the fabrication of the wind turbines. His PowerPoint presentation to the L.I Regional Planning Council referenced a far more modest project off New England that generated hundreds of jobs for wind turbine fabricators in Rhode Island. That reminder would turn out to be far more prescient than Plummer probably intended.

By 2015, Plummer was president of Deepwater Wind, telling a New York City audience that New York could replace its fossil fueled plants with wind turbines off the Rockaways.

Included in his pitch was the now familiar promise of jobs for Brooklyn construction trades. His repeat performance revealed that the pledge of local jobs had become an essential part of Deepwater’s corporate formula in seeking the buy-in from special interests who would directly benefit from their multi-million-dollar renewable energy projects.

Plummer has since moved on from Deepwater Wind and so too has the promise of local jobs for proposed wind turbine projects according to a study by The New York Times.

In a recent analysis of the industry, the paper reports that Rhode Island, “the nation’s smallest state has held onto many of the jobs and economic benefits that go with being first…”

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Rhode Island doesn’t seem prepared to cede the post position. The Times quotes Michael Sabitoni, president of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council, “You can print this: Rhode Island’s the leader.”

The current generation of wind turbine industry representatives say some New Yorkers have, in fact, been hired to prepare the needed land-based connections to offshore wind power. The parent company building the South Fork Wind Farm says it is building a Port Jefferson facility to maintain the farm once in service, reflecting the essential fact that a wind farm off Montauk can’t be run from Rhode Island.

Taking a step back from empty promises, one needs to consider the broader issue of our energy future.

Our race to embrace offshore wind turbines is a reflection of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s highly questionable progressive energy policy. Her latest pronouncements call for zero-emissions for new construction, “with no on-site fossil fuel combustion by 2025 for smaller buildings, and by 2028 for larger buildings.”

In addition, she is, “Proposing New York take a nation-leading stand to prohibit the sale of any new fossil fuel heating equipment by 2030 for smaller buildings and 2035 for larger buildings, along with related fossil fuel systems for all buildings.” That initiative is about ending the sale of gas stoves, pizza ovens, etc.

All of these pronouncements would require the State of New York to be totally dependent on the production of costly new electricity.

Experts have suggested that our current energy grid is not designed to provide the enormous amount of electrical power new shopping centers, offices, industrial sites, and homes these structures will require under the Hochul plan. Nor will the current generation of costly offshore wind turbines be capable of producing the megawatts these new developments will be mandated to use.

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New York’s Empire Center for Public Policy notes the governor is appealing to the progressive left with a “fossil-free” future while avoiding the discussion of just who is going to pay for the far higher cost of going all electric.

By now we have learned that the promise of wind turbines generating considerable number of jobs for Long Island is illusionary. What we are also learning is political ideology that dictates our energy future is more than equally flawed.

 

Rosenberg, a graduate of St. John’s University Law School and resident of Old Westbury, is senior founding partner of Rosenberg, Calica & Birney LLP, a Garden City law firm.

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