Deepwater An Afterthought In Wind Energy Push

What a difference a year makes.

Deepwater Wind, once poised to introduce offshore generated wind to the continental United States and specifically East Hampton, is mired down in a review process fueled by considerable community opposition. Its much-ballyhooed project, slated to land in Wainscott in 2022, may well be dead in the water, though no one associated with the company is saying as much.

Meanwhile, a slate of new companies is gearing up for a piece of the wind power action: Governor Andrew Cuomo has set a course for the state’s first procurements of offshore wind to support the state’s initial goal of 2400 megawatts of new offshore wind generation by 2030, enough to power 1.2 million New York households.

In October, the D.E. Shaw group, which owned Deepwater, sold the company to Ørsted, an international power company with extensive offshore wind experience, for $510 million, creating the leading U.S. offshore wind platform, with the most comprehensive geographic coverage and the largest pipeline of development capacity.

Included in the deal was the 15-unit South Fork Wind project, the Block Island Wind Farm (five turbines), and two projects planned for New England. The Block Island turbines are the only functioning ones in the United States. South Fork, which hoped to begin formal New York State mandate review months ago, has still not submitted sufficient data.

Last week, Eversource Energy purchased a 50 percent stake in the Ørsted/Deepwater entity.

Liberty Up Next?

The resulting company certainly has the financial wherewithal and industry knowledge to grab a major share of the wind energy market, but the Deepwater East Hampton experience has encountered significant roadblocks on the public relations front. New York Assemblyman Fred Thiele recently pulled his support because he said company officials kept lying to him about the project’s scope.

In July, Cuomo double-downed on his pledge to produce 2400 megawatts of power in the coming decade. He directed the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority to procure approximately 800 megawatts of offshore wind through a solicitation issued in the fourth quarter of 2018, in consultation and coordination with the New York Power Authority and the Long Island Power Authority. Awards are expected to be announced in the second quarter of this year. If needed, a second solicitation will be issued.

But it was Vineyard Wind and not the Deepwater/Ørsted entity that grabbed the first headline, announcing, with much fanfare, a new offshore wind project proposal to serve New York called Liberty Wind. The Liberty Wind proposal was submitted in response to NYSERDA’s solicitation of offshore wind project proposals for supplying New York with clean, emission free offshore wind energy. NYSERDA said it will announce next week if Liberty’s bid is chosen.

The Liberty Wind proposal includes 400, 800, and 1200-megawatt project size options. Deepwater’s South Fork Wind proposal comes in at a paltry 130 megawatts in comparison but its Revolution Wind project proposed a next-generation 400-megawatt offshore wind farm with up to 50 offshore wind turbines serving Rhode Island.

The 1200-megawatt project proposed by Liberty, which is the most cost-effective option for New York ratepayers, would be one of the largest offshore wind projects in the world and would make a major contribution to Cuomo’s new objective of developing 9000 megawatts of offshore wind energy to supply New York by 2035. The Liberty Wind 1200-megawatt project would supply enough emission free energy to power over 750,000 New York homes and come ashore on Long Island, with possible landing sites including Shoreham or Brookhaven.

“Liberty Wind will also bring substantial economic development and job creation benefits to New York, providing hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and thousands of jobs on Long Island, the Capitol Region, and in New York City. Foundation components will be fabricated at a port facility in the Capitol Region and transported down the Hudson River to the project site in the Atlantic Ocean,” according to a press release.

Liberty Wind’s turbines will be located in federal waters 85 miles away from the nearest New York shore but could deliver up to 200 megawatts of clean power directly to the New York grid at an existing substation on Long Island.

Pushed Through

The company hasn’t identified where that will be but it is expected to be mid-Island.

Deepwater billed itself as an East Hampton-centric designer project conceived to solve the peak power outages in East Hampton Town. But the anti-Deepwater fervor is ratcheting because the feeling persists the project was pushed through the LIPA board by Governor Cuomo.

East Hampton’s peak power shortage problem has been greatly exaggerated, critics maintain, and it requires a relatively simple fix, certainly not an offshore wind turbine project.

David Gaier, PSEG’s director of public relations, said that is simply untrue. “The average annual forecasted growth rate from 2019 to 2030 is 2.4 percent.” The Montauk substation, though maintained and updated, is 100 years old, which is why the company wants to build a new one.”

The matter of whether wind-driven power is needed is beside the point, he argues. “Deepwater is part of our governor’s plan to bring in renewables. It stands on its own. As a society we clearly want to get off fossil fuel,” said Gaier.

Tom Bjurlof, an energy expert, said the kind of generalized feel good approach to Deepwater simply isn’t true and it does all involved a disservice. He guessed the Wainscott site won’t get approved, and an alternate site in Hither Hills Park has been a red herring from the get go. “No one ever took that seriously,” he said.

Eversource also will become partners in the rest of Deepwater’s 257-square-mile federal lease area, which could eventually host hundreds of additional turbines feeding power to New England’s power grid.

Eversource was already partners with Ørsted U.S. Offshore Wind, a subsidiary of the Danish wind energy giant Ørsted, in Bay State Wind, a 300-square-mile wind lease area adjacent to the Deepwater lease area.

In a statement on Friday morning, February 15, Deepwater representatives said the combined partnership now has the potential to eventually provide up to 4000 megawatts from its offshore developments south of New England.

“We are excited to have Eversource join us as we embark on the creation of the strongest U.S. offshore wind platform,” said Thomas Brostrøm, CEO of Ørsted U.S. Offshore Wind. “With their expansive knowledge of the energy market throughout the region, and by building on both companies’ community outreach programs, we are on track to ensure that the Northeast will be the North American hub for offshore wind energy.”

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