Feds OK Planned Offshore South Fork Wind Farm

One of the Block Island Wind Farm structures sits in the Atlantic Ocean in New Shoreham, Rhode Island
FILE PHOTO: One of the Block Island Wind Farm structures, part of the first commercial offshore wind farm in the United States, located 3.8 miles (6km) from Block Island, sits in the Atlantic Ocean in New Shoreham, Rhode Island, U.S., August 5, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The plan to build a wind farm off the East End coast took a step forward Wednesday when federal regulators delivered key approvals that advance the planned construction project.

The U.S. Department of Interior approved the construction and operations of the planned 130-megawatt South Fork Wind project, which would include a dozen turbines built 35 miles off the coast of Montauk that generate enough electricity to power 70,000 homes.

“We have no time to waste in cultivating and investing in a clean energy economy that can sustain us for generations,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said.

The project is billed as the first offshore wind farm in New York State. The Interior Department approved first commercial-scale U.S. offshore wind farm  the 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind project off Massachussetts in May. The nation’s first-ever offshore wind farm opened off Block Island in 2016.

The decision comes as the administration of President Joe Biden seeks to rapidly expand the U.S. offshore wind industry as part of its broader effort to decarbonize the nation’s power sector by 2035, and the whole economy by 2050, to fight climate change.

“With today’s permitting milestone, South Fork Wind is set to be New York’s historic first offshore wind farm providing clean energy where it is needed most,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “Our nation-leading climate and offshore wind goals demand bold action and moving South Fork Wind forward brings us closer to a cleaner and greener future.”

The state Public Service Commission approved in March a plan to connect a 7.6-mile, 138,000-volt transmission line from the the South Fork Wind farm 30 feet under the beach in Wainscott, and linking to a substation in the Town of East Hampton. Some residents seeking to block the line petitioned East Hampton town, which previously approved the power line, for a vote to incorporate as a village, to help fight the construction, but the petition was ruled invalid. Village proponents later sued the Town of East Hampton in Suffolk County court after the town board approved a measure allowing the wind farm to have its cable come ashore in the Wainscott.

Commercial fishermen concerned about the wind farm’s impact on their livelihood also have taken issue with the plan. But the Interior Department said the project will create about 340 jobs, something local labor leaders were happy to hear.

“The words ‘sustainable’ and ‘resilient’ can now be used simultaneously to aptly describe a wide range of employment opportunities as well as the environment,” said Matthew Aracich, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk Counties, AFL-CIO.

Roger Clayman, executive director of the Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, agreed.

“American workers should not have to choose between a good job and a clean environment,” he said. “We can and must have both.”

South Fork Wind LLC, whose parent companies are Ørsted and Eversource Energy, cheered the decision.

“With the achievement of this critical federal permitting milestone, construction of this historic wind farm is expected to begin in the weeks and months ahead,” said David Hardy, Chief Executive Officer of Ørsted Offshore North America. “South Fork Wind will not only boost the economy with family-sustaining jobs, but it will also help combat climate change and reduce air pollution as a clean energy resource for many Long Island residents.”

Local environmentalists echoed the sentiment.

“The federal government has announced an early holiday gift – the gift of clean renewable offshore wind energy,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Farmingdale-based nonprofit Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Today is a celebration of the beginning of a new energy future for New York, a true transition from polluting fossil fuels to clean renewable energy. … We cannot wait to see these beacons of hope in the water for our first offshore wind farm.”

Ørsted and Eversource will soon enter the construction phase of South Fork Wind, with onshore activities beginning first. South Fork Wind is now gearing up for site preparation work and the start of construction, beginning as early as January 2022, on the project’s underground transmission line, the companies said. Offshore installation of the project’s monopile foundations and 11-megawatt Siemens-Gamesa wind turbines is expected to begin in summer 2023.

“The offshore wind industry is the future of our Long Island economy, and Suffolk County is proud to serve as a national model for creating a greener future for generations to come,” said Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone.“Offshore wind projects are a critical part of our comprehensive plan to combat climate change and mitigate its effects on Long Islanders, and today’s announcement brings this historic project one step closer to reality.”

The project is just one of several that have been proposed for the waters off the coast of the East End. In January, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans for another offshore wind farm more than 60 miles off Montauk Point with more than 90 turbines for an output of about 1,200 megawatts. The line for that wind farm will travel 200 miles under the Long Island Sound to Astoria, Queens.

And in April, the Biden administration announced plans to build another wind farm off the coast of the Hamptons, but the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) quickly shelved that idea following local uproar.

-With Reuters

FILE PHOTO: Elected officials and Deepwater Wind executives cheer during a ceremony to mark the installation of the first jacket support structure for a wind farm in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean off Block Island, Rhode Island July 27, 2015.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

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