By Annabel Hofmann
Construction of the South Fork Wind project — New York’s first offshore wind farm — began with installation of underground transmission cables in East Hampton Feb. 14. The project is a starting point toward meeting New York State’s goal of eventually producing 9,000 megawatts of electricity with offshore wind.
Gov. Kathy Hochul came to East Hampton Feb. 11 to announce the start of the $2 billion project, saying, “Long Island, you are the first. It’s always great to be first. Congratulations,” according to Newsday.
The 130-megawatt project, officials said, will be enough to power 70,000 homes on Long Island.
South Fork Wind, a joint venture between Ørsted, a Danish power company, and the Eversource, an energy provider headquartered in Connecticut and Massachusetts, is expected to be completed by December 2023.
“New York has the nation’s most aggressive offshore wind target — 9,000 megawatts by 2035,” said Fred Zalcman, director of the New York Offshore Wind Alliance, a coalition of organizations promoting offshore wind.
Installation of underground conduits and a transmission cable is expected to be finished by the summer of 2023. Onshore construction is taking place over a four-mile corridor, the route of which was heavily protested by Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott.
The ad hoc group argued that the location for landfall of the transmission cable was selected because it maximized profits for Ørsted, and it did not account for noise, visual degradation and waste generated by construction on local residents and the beachfront.
“It’s a short-term, temporary disturbance,” said Jennifer Garvey, New York market affairs manager for Ørsted. “It’s gotten a fair amount of attention, obviously, and it’s been a talked-about project the last few years, but in the end, there’s similar work that happens all the time.”
Ørsted officials call work that is now under way on the transmission cable “a temporary disturbance.” The land-based work is expected to wind down by the summer of 2023. // Photos courtesy Ørsted
Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott filed a court motion against Ørsted and the Town of East Hampton, arguing that Ørsted had not complied with New York State Environmental Quality Review requirements, but the State Supreme Court justice in the case, Vincent J. Martorana, dismissed the case, saying the company had done a “extensive environmental review,” according to the East Hampton Star.
Based on polling done incrementally throughout the project, “there’s consistently been an overwhelming show of support” for the offshore wind project, Garvey said. “It’s a winning issue.”
In 2015, the Long Island Power Authority recognized a need to expand Long Island’s energy output as its power needs grow. LIPA posted a request for proposals for the area, holding an auction at which companies bid to provide the needed power.
In an email, Jen Hayen, LIPA’s communications director, explained that the plan submitted by Ørsted was originally proposed as a 90-megawatt project. However, in November 2018, 40 additional megawatts were added by improved wind turbine technology. LIPA agreed to purchase the additional energy.
The project will add enough renewable electricity to the Long Island grid to offset 300,000 tons of carbon emissions each year, Hayen said. At the same time, the project will create substantial economic opportunities and job growth on the Island, officials said.
“We have a huge transition to make from fossil-fire fuel to renewable energy,” said Garvey, of Ørsted, “and Long Island is really in the thick of it. It’s really exciting.”
Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, a Democrat from District 2, which includes East Hampton, said she supports the project. “As a coastal community, we’re on the front lines of climate change and its damaging impacts,” she said. “This critically important project will bring the first large-scale offshore wind farm to the region, bringing clean energy and good local jobs to Suffolk County.”