The Calverton Solar Energy Center, Riverhead, NY (photo: National Grid)
This week, thousands of leaders are in New York for Climate Week 2022. While the presentations and networking are happening in New York City, the action is taking place to the east on Long Island.
As more clean energy solutions like offshore wind, solar, battery storage, and clean hydrogen surface, Long Island is quickly emerging as a clean energy hub. Applying the solutions that are working here to other communities throughout the Northeast will be critical to mitigating climate change while continuing to provide reliable, affordable energy to residents that call this region home.
The key to Long Island’s success as a clean energy hub is a hybrid approach to decarbonization that incorporates multiple sources of renewable electricity and heat.
In Riverhead, the 23-megawatt Calverton Solar Energy Center powers more than 4,200 homes. This reduces carbon emissions 20,000 metric tons per year – equivalent to removing 4,000 cars from the road. In addition, the waters surrounding the island will soon be home to offshore wind projects including the South Fork Wind Farm and Community Offshore Wind, a joint venture between National Grid and RWE that has the potential to host 3 gigawatts of capacity – enough to power more than one million homes. To ensure consistent power supply, regardless of the weather, National Grid and NextEra Energy Resources have built 80 megawatt-hours of battery storage in Montauk and East Hampton, which is crucial for ensuring reliable service when it is not windy or sunny.
Alongside these traditional sources of renewable energy, Long Island is also embracing cleaner fuels that can replace natural gas to provide clean heat. Renewable natural gas (RNG) and clean hydrogen can be used in the same way as natural gas, but are significantly better for the environment. Clean hydrogen is a nearly emissions-free alternative to fossil fuels produced by separating hydrogen out of the water molecule, leaving only water vapor behind.
Hempstead will soon be home to one of the first hydrogen blending projects in the nation, using existing wind and solar equipment to create clean hydrogen to provide heat. Existing power plants fueled by oil and gas on Long Island can also be replaced or converted to run on clean hydrogen instead of fossil fuels.
Together, these initiatives put Long Island on the path to becoming a clean energy hub that can serve as an example for communities in the Northeast and throughout the country. It helps that Long Island sits in New York state, which has one of the most ambitious clean energy agendas in the country and a goal that 70% of the state’s electricity will be fueled by renewables by 2030. However, a number of states in the Northeast are equally ambitious. Imagine the progress we could make on addressing climate change if the Long Island model became ubiquitous.
That is the long-term goal of National Grid’s new Northeast Clean Energy Vision. Building on the company’s recently-announced fossil-free plan, the Northeast Clean Energy Vision is a roadmap to establish the region as a leader in clean energy by developing a collection of large-scale hubs modeled after what is currently happening on Long Island.
Making this vision a reality across the Northeast will not be easy. Actions taken by New York state on infrastructure planning are critical to making meaningful, near-term progress. And the federal funding for projects that can mitigate climate change included in the Inflation Reduction Act is a huge boost, but we cannot stop there. We are now looking ahead to U.S. Senator Joe Manchin’s permitting bill that will ensure expedited siting approvals for clean energy projects. Additionally, we will need to strengthen our focus on putting communities first in the energy transition; one great example is workforce development programs.
The clean energy hub on Long Island is a great example of what is possible when industry and government work together to fight climate change. The technology choices are clear, but we need to continue to develop the right policies and the leadership to implement them.
Will Hazelip is President of National Grid Ventures, US Northeast. On Twitter @nationalgridus.