Hempstead Harbor, a future energy hub


Hempstead Harbor is on the verge of becoming a major energy hub, not only for Long Island, but also for the state. What’s missing is an information center that will filter through all the energy plans and proposals that will intersect in one small community, and communicate the potential impact of these projects so that local residents aren’t left in the dark.

To meet the state’s goal of adding 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind power to Long Island’s grid system, several things need to happen, including upgrading the antiquated grid and building large-scale battery energy storage systems. All of this requires comprehensive planning and coordination — which is not happening.

Glenwood Landing, a community on the eastern shore of Hempstead Harbor, has become a critical focal point in this effort. But local officials and community reps around the harbor have largely been left wondering about timelines and construction impacts. The various players don’t appear to be coordinating with one another, and the environmental review process being used is fragmented in such a way that, despite multiple efforts at the local level, the potential cumulative impact of all these projects is unknown.

In June 2023, the New York Independent System Operator announced that a $3.3 billion contract had been awarded to NY Transco/Propel NY Energy to, among other things, run a series of high-voltage underwater cables through Hempstead Harbor to a substation in Glenwood Landing. This was done without any notice to or input from the municipalities that surround the harbor.

Then, at a meeting last September, officials representing Beacon Wind — one of the major wind developers that will feed the grid — assured municipal and environmental representatives from around Hempstead Harbor that there were no plans for underwater cables in the harbor.

In December 2022, Jupiter Power submitted a building application to the Town of Oyster Bay for a 275-megawatt battery energy storage system in Glenwood Landing. Around the same time, another company had discussed building another battery energy storage system a few thousand feet away, in the Town of North Hempstead portion of Glenwood Landing, but has not yet submitted a building permit application. When questioned, representatives of Jupiter Power said they were unaware of the possibility of a competitor’s facility down the road, and were even unaware of the contract for underwater cables that had been awarded by NY ISO.

Meanwhile, the Nassau County Department of Public Works is in the midst of a $12 million reconstruction of Shore Road along the eastern shore of Hempstead Harbor, through which the proposed high-voltage cables must run. But when questioned, NY Transco was unaware of this project.

Just as the various components of the electrical grid are necessarily interconnected, the environmental reviews of all these projects should be, too. While the offshore wind farms fall under a federal environmental review process, the cables for the upgrade of the electrical grid fall under the state’s purview, and the battery storage facilities fall under town environmental-review processes. Reviewing the impact of each interconnected piece of the puzzle on its own, without looking at the collective impact as a whole, defeats the very purpose of environmental reviews.

Since 1986, the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor has worked to restore the harbor to its full ecological and economic potential. Currently, CSHH, in partnership with local governments, is focused on implementing large-scale restoration projects, such as working with the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee to implement a federal grant proposal that will add approximately two million oysters to the harbor over the next three years. Other programs and proposed projects continue to address ways to improve water quality and protect the marine habitat. It is critical that the installation of underwater cables and other energy initiatives fully consider these efforts.

CSHH is fully supportive of the state’s renewable energy goals, as outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. While a lot of energy is going into achieving climate goals, however, all the players must direct sufficient energy to understanding local community efforts, generating a meaningful cumulative impact analysis, and creating an effective communication network that avoids the siloing of individual energy projects.

Carol DiPaolo is the water-monitoring coordinator of the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor.