Representatives of Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind and Eversource, the energy companies proposing to build the South Fork Wind Farm, provided the East Hampton Village Board with an update on the project and its possible impacts on the village at a board meeting on Friday.
To build the wind farm, the companies are seeking federal and state permission to construct 15 turbines approximately 35 miles off Montauk, in waters leased from the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. An export cable that would connect the turbines to the Long Island Power Authority substation near Cove Hollow Road in East Hampton Town would also have to be installed.
The companies have applied to the state’s Public Service Commission for a certificate of “environmental compatibility and public need” to construct the cable. As part of the permitting process, they were asked to identify two potential onshore landing sites for the cable.
Jennifer Garvey, a Long Island development manager for Orsted, told the board that the preferred site would be at Beach Lane in Wainscott. To connect to the substation from there, the cable would run for four miles under Wainscott Main Street, Sayre’s Path, Wainscott Stone Road, and Wainscott Northwest Road, and from there along the Long Island Rail Road corridor.
The alternate landing site is Hither Hills State Park in Montauk. In that scenario, there would be 12 miles of on-shore cable running from Old Montauk Highway to Montauk Highway, Main Streets in Amagansett and East Hampton Village, and onto Buell Lane and Route 114 before it enters the L.I.R.R. right of way.
Construction would be in the off-season, between November and March.
East Hampton Village Superintendent of Public Works David Collins said the Hither Hills option could wreak havoc on the village’s old infrastructure, including stormwater drainage systems, many of which are not marked. He recommended the companies use the railroad corridor if the cable came from Montauk, but Kenneth Bowes, a vice president for Eversource, said that option might not be feasible due to elevation issues, the number of railroad crossings, and the presence of wetlands.
Barbara Borsack also noted the severe impact construction would have on traffic flow if the alternate landing site were chosen. “Even if you work off-season,
the amount of disruption coming up Montauk Highway, there’s no comparison to what it would be coming off Beach Lane,” said Barbara Borsack. “So I can’t imagine why everybody in East Hampton would have to be disrupted, as opposed to coming in off Beach Lane, which would be minor for most people in the town.”
Mr. Bowes agreed with her. “Obviously the human disruption [and] community impact is a clear differentiator of the two routes,” he said.
Ms. Garvey noted that the Public Service Commission would ultimately determine the route, and she encouraged the board to join the commission’s decision-making process by registering as an “intervenor.” The commission is scheduled to hear testimony from intervenors on Nov. 1, she said. A decision on the landing site is expected by the end of next summer.
If the proposal is approved, the process of installing the cable would begin by marking the boundaries of where work can be done, and then identifying the sites of existing underground utilities, said Mr. Bowes.
If the Hither Hills site is chosen, digging would be easy during the construction phase, he said, but the installation of the cable would be a lengthy process. He estimated that crews would cover 70 feet per day. On state roads such as Montauk Highway they would be required to keep a travel lane open during
construction. An existing bike lane would be used where available, Mr.
Bowes said, but on Main Street in the village and in Amagansett, parking spots would have to be sacrificed.
Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. asked Francis Bock, clerk of the East Hampton Town Trustees, to offer his opinion on the project. Mr. Bock said the trustees were still trying to understand it. “We have registered as intervenors, which I suggest you do too,” he said.
Arthur Graham, a village trustee, asked several questions about the cost of energy from the proposed wind farm. Ms. Garvey said the Long Island Power Authority has estimated an increase of $1.58 per month for the average ratepayer.
Residents of Block Island, who receive energy from a wind farm owned and operated by Orsted, have reported having extremely high electric bills, said Mr. Graham. “I have friends on Block Island who have given me horror stories about what they’re paying per kilowatt hour,” he said. The cost of building the windmills, he said, has been added to Block Island residents’ bills as a supply fee rather than as a fee for energy consumption. “I assume you’ll do that to us as well,” he said.
Mr. Bowes said the current widespread use of fossil fuels for energy generation makes it a less expensive option than environmentally friendly energy sources. Ms. Garvey said that Block Island residents have been able to idle their “noisy, dirty diesel generators” because of the wind farm.