Final Federal Approvals Give South Fork Wind The Green Light to Begin Work

Pictured Above: The Block Island Wind Farm, the first offshore wind farm in the United States, which was built by Deepwater Wind, which has since been acquired by Ørsted, which is one of the developers of the South Fork Wind project | Deepwater Wind file photo

The South Fork Wind Farm has received final approval of its Construction and Operations Plan from the Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, paving the way for onshore work to begin as soon as later this month.

Approval of the COP was the final step in the federal permitting process for the 132-megawatt offshore wind farm, which consists of twelve 11-megawatt turbines in federal waters 35 miles east of Montauk. When completed, as is expected by the end of 2023, the South Fork Wind Farm will be the first offshore wind farm to provide power to New York State, providing power to up to 70,000 homes on the East End.

“This milestone underscores the tremendous opportunity we have to create a new industry from the ground up to drive our green energy economy, deliver clean power to millions of homes and create good jobs across the state,” said New York Governor Kathy Hochul as the final approval was announced on Wednesday, Jan. 19. “As we tackle climate change head on and transition to a clean economy, these are the projects that will power our future.”

“Suffolk County stands ready to serve as the epicenter of the emerging offshore wind industry by leveraging our world-class research institutions to serve as a hub of workforce development for the jobs of the future,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “This project is a major victory for our economy, for labor, and for our environment as we remain committed to addressing the impacts of climate change on our region.”

South Fork Wind is a joint venture of Danish wind farm giant Ørsted and the New England electric transmission company Eversource.

The companies plan to begin onshore work by late January laying a transmission cable from Beach Lane in Wainscott to a substation in East Hampton Village over four miles of local roads and Long Island Rail Road rights-of-way.

The onshore work is expected to be divided into three segments: sea-to-shore drilling from about 1,700 feet offshore to a duct bank 500 feet back from the beach at the end of Beach Lane in Wainscott; the laying of the cable along two miles of town roads and two miles of Long Island Rail Road rights-of-way; and readying a new substation adjacent to an existing LIPA substation on Cove Hollow Road in East Hampton Village, all of which are slated to begin in the first quarter of 2022, South Fork Wind representatives told members of the public at a Nov. 15, 2021 virtual open house.

A graphic of the sea-to-shore transition of the South Fork Wind Farm cable.
A graphic of the sea-to-shore transition of the South Fork Wind Farm cable presented at the Nov. 15 open house.

In late November, 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) finished its environmental review of the project, reaching a Record of Decision on the project that said its “environmentally preferable alternatives” are a “habitat” proposal, which excludes the installation of wind turbines in areas that are critical habitat for marine life, particularly juvenile cod, or the “no action alternative,” not building the wind farm, which, while it would reduce local disturbance to the environment, “would probably result in moderate, long-term, adverse impacts on regional air quality because other energy generation facilities would be needed to meet future power demands,” according to BOEM’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, Laura Daniel-Davis, who issued the Record of Decision (ROD).

Offshore wind “is presently an irreplaceable component in state, federal and international strategies to reduce and reverse climate change over the coming decades,” she added. “Selection of the Habitat Alternative could encourage investment in U.S. offshore wind energy facilities, which could in turn result in beneficial cumulative impacts such as increased employment, improvements in air quality and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

The project, as approved in the Record of Decision, would allow no more than 12 turbines to be installed in locations agreed on by South Fork Wind and BOEM. 

Another alternative, which utilized a four nautical mile-wide vessel transit lane, would have eliminated six turbine locations, reducing the energy production of the wind farm. BOEM stated that the currently selected habitat plan, with the turbines spaced at one nautical mile intervals, “will result in the functional equivalent of numerous navigation corridors that can safely accommodate both transits through and fishing.”

Kiewit Offshore Services, Ltd, near Corpus Christi, Texas, had already begun work on the offshore substation for the project, which will utilize 11-megawatt Siemens-Gamesa wind turbines, as of the Nov. 15 open house. 

South Fork Wind announced in early January that Long Island-based contractor Haugland Energy Group LLC will install the duct bank system for the project’s underground onshore transmission line and will also lead the construction of the onshore interconnection facility in East Hampton village, creating “more than 100 union jobs for Long Island skilled trades workers, including heavy equipment operators, electricians, lineworkers, and local delivery drivers who will support transportation of materials to the project site,” according to South Fork Wind.

Haugland Energy Group has agreements to pay union wages with several Long Island unions, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1049 and International Union of Operating Engineers Local 138, whose members will serve as construction labor for the project.

Wind turbine installation expected in summer of 2023 and South Fork Wind is expecting the project will be operational by the end of 2023.

“We’re excited to reach this critical point and receive BOEM’s final approval of our Construction and Operations Plan,” said David Hardy, Chief Executive Officer of Ørsted Offshore North America. “As New York’s first offshore wind farm, South Fork Wind is already contributing to a new statewide and U.S. manufacturing era and maritime industry, including good-paying union jobs through our labor partnerships and vision for the industry.”

“Today, after years of careful planning, we are on the cusp of making history as South Fork Wind, New York’s first-ever offshore wind farm, will soon become a reality,” said Joe Nolan, Chief Executive Officer and President of Eversource Energy. “With onshore construction expected in the coming days, New Yorkers are closer than ever to realizing the benefits of clean energy as we continue to deliver on our promise of creating jobs, providing economic investment, and fighting climate change.”

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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