Since opportunities to have fun and be useful at the same time are precious, I decided to spend my Saturday night on Long Beach to join a Sierra Club rally in support of offshore wind energy. A local volunteer, Matt Kearns, ran over a 100 miles between two locations that are particularly suited for offshore wind: Montauk and Long Beach.

Offshore wind is important for several reasons. First, onshore wind is the most successful of the new renewables so far. Since the technology is largely similar, experience suggests that offshore wind could produce clean energy at a low cost. Second, offshore wind avoids some of the problems associated with onshore wind. If the windmills are built sufficiently far to the sea, the problems of siting and “not in my backyear” are mitigated. Finally, the technical potential of offshore wind energy in the United States is large.

For New York State, offshore wind is another opportunity to embrace a clean energy future. Our state has already chosen to invest in solar power through a series of exciting public-private partnerships. While solar has become an established industry, offshore wind is less mature. That’s why offshore wind would  be a great addition to New York’s energy portfolio — while solar promises guaranteed returns, offshore wind is the kind of investment that could make New York a leader on the national, or even global, scale.

The rally itself was a lot of fun, and the brutal wind certainly left all of us with the impression that Long Beach can be the offshore wind capital of the world. The local community was active and there was little sense of this being a fringe event for environmentalists.  Local politicians gave spirited talks, the band was pretty awesome, and there were so many volunteers that one had to be duly impressed. The director of Beyond Coal, Mary Anne Hitt, was there to lead the event and send an inspiring message to the community (it was also incredible to see her lead with such energy while carrying a 4-year old around all night).

What’s nice about these events is that they send an unambiguously positive message about clean energy. If this is what a clean energy future looks like, then it’s simply going to make our lives more enjoyable and productive even if we initially have to invest some money. It’s basically a no-brainer.