South Fork Wind Farm Is Just the Start

One offshore turbine proposal would be big enough to power a million homes

A joint venture of Orsted, the Danish energy company that last year acquired Deepwater Wind, and the Connecticut company Eversource, with which it has partnered on multiple offshore wind proposals in Northeastern ocean waters, including the South Fork Wind Farm, was among four respondents submitting 18 proposals to New York State’s first offshore wind energy solicitation, through which the State Energy Research and Development Authority, or NYSERDA, plans to procure renewable energy.

NYSERDA issued its first solicitation, in November, for 800 megawatts or more of offshore wind energy pursuant to the State Public Service Commission’s order adopting the Offshore Wind Standard, a framework for an initial phase of offshore wind energy solicitations. Bids were due last Thursday, with awards expected in the spring and contracts awarded in the summer.

Under the Clean Energy Standard, the state has mandated that 50 percent of its electricity come from renewable sources by 2030, with up to 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind installed in that time frame. A stated goal calls for 9,000 megawatts of wind power by 2035. The first phase of 800 mega- watts or more is intended to stimulate development of a domestic offshore wind industry.

Last Thursday, Bay State Wind L.L.C., an Orsted-Eversource joint venture that predates the $225 million deal announced earlier this month giving the latter a 50-percent stake in the South Fork and Revolution wind farms, announced its Sunrise Wind proposal, which would be situated more than 30 miles east of Montauk in a federal lease area won by Deepwater Wind and now controlled by the two companies.

A spokeswoman for Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind, as Deepwater Wind was rebranded, said that the company had bid a range of project sizes, the smallest a 400-megawatt installation. The proposed wind farm’s precise location, number of turbines, and generating capacity will be finalized depending on the outcome of the solicitation and its construction plans, she said.

An adjacent lease area is controlled by Vineyard Wind L.L.C., a joint venture of the Danish fund management company Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables, the latter based in Portland, Ore. Vineyard Wind’s proposal to NYSERDA is called Liberty Wind, which includes 400, 800, and 1,200-megawatt installations 85 miles from the nearest New York shore. In a statement issued last Thursday, the company described the latter option as one of the largest offshore wind projects in the world, generating energy to power more than 750,000 residences. 

Equinor Wind Energy L.L.C., formerly Statoil and part of a Norwegian energy company, also responded to NYSERDA’s solicitation. Its Empire Wind, which the company says could power one million residences, is planned for an area east of the Rockaways, an average of 20 miles south of Long Island. The company operates three wind farms off the coast of the United Kingdom. 

Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind L.L.C., a joint venture of EDF Renewables North America and Shell New Energies U.S., also responded to NYSERDA’s solicitation.

The Cable Landing

In a separate development, Orsted and Eversource have applied to the State Public Service Commission for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need to construct the export cable that would transport electricity from the South Fork Wind Farm, proposed approximately 35 miles east of Montauk, to “the South Shore of the Town of East Hampton” and underground to the Long Island Power Authority substation near Cove Hollow Road in East Hampton.

Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind has identified the ocean beach at the end of Beach Lane in Wainscott as its preferred landfall for the transmission cable, a plan that many of the hamlet’s residents oppose. They argue that the cable should make landfall elsewhere, such as at state-owned land at Hither Hills.

A divided East Hampton Town Board voted on Feb. 7 to allow Orsted and Eversource to conduct archaeological and soil tests along the companies’ preferred cable route, in Wainscott. An Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind official subsequently said that the Hither Hills site would also be sampled.

The Public Service Commission grants a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need under its Article VII review process. Permitting of the South Fork Wind Farm is on schedule, the Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind spokeswoman said, and the company expects to have all permits, including the certificate, in hand by late next year.

Fishermen Mistrustful

Along with many Wainscott residents, commercial fishermen are resolutely opposed to the South Fork Wind Farm, fearing a detrimental impact on their livelihood. But interviews with fishermen and others in Montauk on Saturday demonstrated varying levels of resignation to a belief that hundreds or even thousands of massive turbines will soon be driven into the North Atlantic’s ocean floor.

Fishermen on the town dock and gathered at Liars’ Saloon on West Lake Drive pointed to government regulations that they say needlessly restrict their catch and aren’t based on sound science. Mistrustful of government, some did not want to give their names or even speak with The Star. “The more people you talk to, the more regulations you get,” said a man at Liars’ Saloon. “The possibility exists that you are the enemy.”

“The fishermen are against it,” a man working on a boat at the town dock said, “because there are too many unknowns.” These, he said, include the impact of driving massive pilings into the sea floor and the electromagnetic frequency that will emanate from the transmission cable. The turbines, he said, “are going to be a hazard to navigation. . . . And we’re afraid we’re not going to be able to fish near the windmills once they put them in. Just because they say they’re going to let us, it doesn’t mean they will. When you’re steaming in from offshore and you’ve been out four or five days and you’ve been deprived of sleep. . . .”

Another fisherman on the town dock picked up on that theme. “I know people are going to lose their lives because there’s going to be that many more obstructions out in the middle of the ocean,” he said. “Who knows who’s going to be the first one to run into those things? Somebody’s going to. There’s either going to be somebody asleep at the wheel or a boat broke down and drifted into them.”

He was critical of D.E. Shaw, the hedge fund company that owned Deepwater Wind until Orsted acquired it for $510 million. “It’s amazing to me that they already cashed in and sold the company to a foreign company, and they didn’t even build the thing,” he said. “That’s just hedge fund people who don’t care about the environment; they don’t care about nothing. . . . Do you think they care about us?”