Against the backdrop of dire warnings issued this week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a Rhode Island company has submitted plans to the Long Island Power Authority for an offshore wind farm that would provide a substantial portion of the Island’s energy needs.
The installation, which would generate approximately 200 megawatts of emission-free energy for Long Island and be situated approximately 30 miles east of Montauk, not visible from Long Island, closely follows the Town of East Hampton’s approval of a proposed solar generating facility at East Hampton Airport.
Deepwater Wind’s 256-square-mile offshore site, known as Deepwater ONE, was selected through a multiyear process led by the U.S. Interior Department with participation from state and federal resource agencies, environmental advocacy groups, commercial fishing representatives, and Native American tribes. The company won exclusive rights from the federal government last year to develop the site.
Deepwater Wind has proposed a direct-current transmission system to deliver the energy to multiple sites, as well as a link between Long Island and southern New England.
The installation would produce energy sufficient to power some 120,000 homes on Long Island, according to the company’s chief executive officer. The offshore wind farm, plans for which arrive amidst PSEG Long Island’s widely unpopular upgrade of its transmission infrastructure in the town, would “defer the need for additional transmission lines or new fossil-fueled peaking plants on the East End,” Jeffrey Grybowski, Deepwater Wind’s chief executive, wrote in an email. “Our onshore transmission lines will be buried beneath existing roads and we will not build any new poles on town streets.”
Under the terms of the company’s proposal, power would be delivered to a LIPA-owned substation on the South Fork. Deepwater Wind has offered the utility several alternative points of interconnection, Mr. Grybowski wrote. That point has yet to be determined.
“Offshore wind has the unique ability to produce energy when it’s most needed — during the summer afternoon and early evening hours and during the coldest winter days when Long Island’s gas system is most strained,” Mr. Grybowski wrote.
There is no domestic manufacturer of offshore wind turbines, Mr. Grybowski wrote, but his company plans to source components locally to the extent possible. “We hope to fabricate significantcsteel components for the project at a new facility here on Long Island,” he wrote. Alstom, a French company that provides energy generation and transmission infrastructure, supplied turbines for the Block Island Wind Farm and would do the same for the Deepwater ONE project if approved, Mr. Grybowski wrote.
While the country’s first land-based wind farm went online almost 40 years ago and more than 45,000 wind turbines were operational by 2012, according to the American Wind Energy Association, the United States lags far behind Europe, where more than 2,000 offshore wind turbines have been deployed over the last two decades. To date, there are no offshore wind farms in the United States, but Deepwater is at present constructing the Block Island Wind Farm, a five-turbine demonstration-scale installation. One year ago, the Interior Department approved plans by Cape Wind Associates to set up more than 100 turbines across Nantucket Sound. That project, Mr. Grybowski wrote, relies on older, less efficient technology.
Because the Deepwater ONE wind farm would be situated outside local jurisdiction, said Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, the liaison to the town’s energy sustainability committee, the town would have minimal say in the matter. Nonetheless, she said, “Everything that can get us off fossil fuels is certainly worth our consideration, but we have to balance that with environmental concerns as well.”
Land-based wind farms have been blamed for wildlife habitat fragmentation and the killing of birds that collide with turbine blades. Offshore wind farms, Mr. Grybowski wrote, “can be developed with minimal environmental impacts or controversy.” Deepwater has invested heavily in site assessment and engineering, he wrote, “and is committed to working with the East End community to ensure that the final project design considers the input of local stakeholders.”
“We are very supportive” of the proposal, said Gordian Raacke, executive direct of Renewable Energy Long Island and a member of the town’s energy sustainability committee. “It would inject a large chunk of renewable power into Long Island’s electric grid. It’s a very exciting technology,” he said.