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U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visits Albany to highlight Biden administration investments

 Congressman Paul Tonko with U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland
Dave Lucas
Congressman Paul Tonko with U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visited the University at Albany today to discuss offshore wind energy and how it ties into President Joe Biden’s agenda.

In town to speak with elected officials and local leaders, Haaland said investments from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda will support the offshore wind energy industry and lead to job growth.

"This morning, we toured the port of Albany, where we saw the progress being made on the construction of the offshore wind expansion project and learned more about collaborative efforts between the Port of Albany, its contractors and developers and the New York State Energy Research Development Authority to advance the offshore wind supply chain and create jobs and community revitalization in a clean energy economy," Haaland said. "We also received a briefing from port and NYSERDA leadership on how the ongoing work across the area will strengthen the economy, environment and energy future in Albany and communities across the state. This collaborative effort is a centerpiece of President Biden's Investing in America agenda, including the administration's goal to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy capacity by 2030. This creates good paying jobs, promotes equity and inclusion, bolsters energy security, all while contributing to New York's ambitious goal of nine gigawatts of offshore wind by 2035."

In January 2021, officials celebrated the selection of the Port of Albany as the first offshore wind tower manufacturing site in the United States, a $357 million dollar project to manufacture 150 offshore wind towers annually. Expectations include hundreds of new green energy jobs.

Democratic Congressman Paul Tonko of the 20th district says Capital Region wind projects at the Ports of Albany and Coeymans will reap some $14 billion in investments.

"Offshore wind, with the opportunities for the towers, the foundations, the fins to be manufactured with skilled labor that we have here with ports that are equipped and ready to go with plant modernization monies that are part of the infrastructure bill," said Tonko. "That having together, put together, not only the resources in the Inflation Reduction Act, but the policy language, which provides certainty and predictability for investment tax credits and production tax credits. This is part of a masterful plan that will make certain that we move forward and move forward with a sound technological background and foundation that will enable us to incorporate these changes in a way that will provide for a better outcome, a better world. And so as we look at the entire east coast, that we conserve, I see us as an epicenter of offshore wind opportunity."

The project has dealt with pandemic related supply-chain issues, inflation and rising construction costs. In February, it was reported that developers were $300 million short of the money needed to build the factory. Port chief executive Rich Hendrick tells WAMC that figure holds today.

"Oh, the project is moving ahead," Hendrick said. "You know, we do have a realistic funding gap. We're looking at managing that in, in different ways. With the project as it is the Secretary and the congressman, we're here today. And they’ve seen the work that's going on. They’ve seen the improvements that have been made since February. And we're you know, we realistically, we're not getting around it, there is a funding gap.”

Hendrick says there's a long road ahead before the first finished wind tower heads down the river toward South Brooklyn. Hendrick says the project deadline is "floating" and welcomes the recognition the port is getting from the administration.

Secretary Haaland was due to be in Vermont Friday for a similar visit with state and local officials.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.