The New York Public Service Commission has approved plans for an offshore wind solicitation of at least 1 gigawatt, and possibly 2.5 gigawatts, to help meet the state’s ambitious clean energy goals. 

But with the coronavirus pandemic causing disruptions across New York, the state agency in charge of the solicitation says it won’t press ahead with it this summer, as it had previously planned.   

Thursday’s decision by the PSC approves a January proposal from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to conduct its second major solicitation for offshore wind, aimed at meeting New York’s goals for 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 and 9 gigawatts by 2035 — the largest target in the country. 

Last summer, NYSERDA awarded 1.7 gigawatts of offshore wind deals to developers Ørsted and Equinor in a solicitation that also drew in competing project bids from Vineyard Wind and Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, a joint venture of EDF Renewables North America and Shell New Energies. 

The PSC acted quickly to approve NYSERDA's second solicitation this year to "maintain New York's trajectory in meeting its clean energy goals." New York passed legislation in 2019 requiring an electricity mix that is 70 percent renewable by 2030 and entirely carbon-free by 2040, compared to just under 30 percent of its in-state generation mix coming from renewables as of 2018.

But NYSERDA warned in a Thursday statement that while it "fully supports and is poised to execute on this authorization," it has decided after consulting with state and offshore wind industry partners that "a near-term solicitation would not be responsible or advisable at this time." 

Instead, it will continue to monitor the ongoing crisis to determine when it can move ahead with the solicitation, along with a separate competitive process to award $200 million in public funding for port infrastructure improvements needed to support its offshore wind build-out.   

New York has been the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus pandemic, with more than 16,000 deaths across the state as of Friday, and more than 150,000 reported cases in New York City alone. The crisis has forced the state to shutter all nonessential businesses and order residents to shelter at home and is expected to drive a $13.3 billion decline in state revenues, about 14 percent of the total, this year, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Friday COVID-19 briefing.  

In a Friday phone call, a NYSERDA spokesperson declined to comment further on the possible schedule for the solicitation. NYSERDA’s statement said it “stands ready to launch the solicitations when the associated activities can responsibly begin.”

New York’s upstate region already gets about 90 percent of its power from hydropower and wind resources and is adding wind and solar power at a rapid clip. 

But the heavily populated New York City and Long Island regions face transmission constraints in accessing that clean energy, and plans to close nuclear and natural-gas power plants in the region will reduce local energy supplies, making offshore wind a vital replacement resource.