March 3, 2023 By Bill Parry
U.S. Senate Majority leader Charles Schumer joined elected officials from across Queens on March 3 for two major announcements at The Variety Boys & Girls Club in Astoria.
Equinor Wind US and its partner bp in the US announced two major initiatives focused on western Queens: the $215 million purchase of the Astoria Gas Turbines site from NRG to repurpose it as a converter station connecting renewable offshore wind power to the New York grid, and a substantial investment in community resources to serve the youth of Queens. The future converter station named the Astoria Gateway for Renewable Energy (AGRE) will replace the decades-old power plant that had polluted the air in “Asthma Alley” for generations.
“After years of successful organizing to stop the pollution from NRG’s gas plant in Astoria, the site will now be used to connect renewable, offshore wind power to the New York grid, which will create clean energy and good, green jobs,” Schumer said. “For too long, the people of western Queens have borne the brunt of the consequences of having New York’s polluting power plants in their backyard. A rebuilt NRG gas plant would have been yet another unfair burden for the community and the environment, but this new project will bring cleaner air and family-supporting jobs to the community, as well as long-term investments in science and technology training for Queens’ underserved youth.”
The AGRE station will receive 1,230 megawatts of renewable energy — enough to power 1 million homes — generated by the Beacon Wind offshore wind project, located 60 miles off the eastern tip of Long Island, beginning in the late 2020s.
Former Councilman Costa Constantinides, who authored the city’s Green New Deal before taking over as CEO of the Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens, called Equinor’s commitment to western Queens is a transformative moment for the community.
“The transition of the NRG site from fossil fuel to clean renewable wind power is a game changer for reducing respiratory illness and improving health,” Constantinides said. “The energy transition needs champions like Equinor to help us move past the status quo of fossil fuels to create Renewable Row with clean power for our families to breathe easier.”
Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas now represents the AGRE site and thanked the environmentalists who stood against the NRG plant.
“In a neighborhood that has experienced so much environmental injustice and has become known as Asthma Alley, I’m thrilled that Astoria’s decades-old peaker plant will soon instead convert offshore wind to bring renewable, clean power to my constituents in Queens,” she said.
Councilwoman Julie Won, who represents Long Island City and parts of Astoria, said, “This investment in renewable energy is a step in the right direction to ensuring that we are lowering harmful emissions, providing our city with sustainable power, and rectifying the environmental racism that our neighbors in Astoria have historically faced.”
Assemblyman Juan Ardila also hailed the end of the NRG project. “This is an exciting time for our movement to transition the state’s energy supply away from fossil fuel dependency and into a future that runs on fully renewable energy,” Ardila said. “By repurposing these gas turbines to converters for offshore wind power, we are getting one step closer to providing Western and Central Queens residents with clean energy, and achieving the goals set out in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).”
Equinor and bp also announced a $1M partnership through Beacon Wind for a community-based state-of-the-art Technology and Media Center, coupled with a sponsorship of $750,000 over ten years to support a Science and Technology program, for underserved youth at the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens.
“These investments in Astoria demonstrate the commitment of offshore wind to New Yorkers. Beacon Wind will bring an important new source of renewable power to a neighborhood marked by its industrial past, and now, community access to world-class education on offshore wind through the Variety Boys and Girls Club,” Equinor Wind US President Molly Morris said. “These classes will provide opportunities to underserved communities to obtain family-sustaining careers. Milestones like this are only possible due to New York’s favorable environment for investment and business, and we are excited for many positive developments to come.”
The investment in curriculum development of a science and technology training program will help provide inclusive early education opportunities to local youth over the long term, an important element of the workforce development pipeline needed to access the renewable energy jobs that are coming to New York.
“Equinor’s plan to decommission and remove NRG’s old and unsightly propane tanks from Astoria is something the community has been seeking for years. This project will provide sustainable wind energy to Astoria and elsewhere, putting the community on a course to reach the renewable energy goals established in the NY Climate Change Act,” state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky said. “Also, by providing funding for a Science and Technology Center for our underserved youth, Equinor is showing a true commitment to improving our community long term. Through the project and with the funding, Astoria will benefit greatly from offshore wind technology while providing our next generation with the education and tools needed to obtain quality jobs in this competitive and growing field.”