Pictured Above: Eversource CEO Joe Nolan, Ørsted Offshore North America CEO David Hardy, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, Nassau Suffolk Building and Construction Trades Council President Marty Aracichsaid and New York League of Conservation Voters President Julie Tighe
As workers began digging the trench to bring the South Fork Wind Farm’s transmission cable ashore in Wainscott Friday morning, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and a plethora of local and regional elected officials, labor leaders and industry representatives gathered on a soundstage at LTV Studios for a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony.
The South Fork Wind Farm, in the planning stages now for seven years, is a 12-turbine, 130 megawatt offshore wind farm slated to be built 35 miles offshore from Montauk Point. It would be the first, and smallest, of many offshore wind farms planned to bring electric power to New York State. It received its final approvals from the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in mid-January.
While New York State has set an ambitious goal of producing 70 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, East Hampton Town was at the leading edge of this effort, setting an ambitious goal back in 2014 of producing all of the electricity used within the town’s boundaries from renewable sources by 2030.
The South Fork Wind Farm is a major part of that effort — it will tie in to the electric grid at a substation in East Hampton Village, and is designed to power approximately 70,000 houses.
“East Hampton is working to do its part to meet its renewable energy goals to address climate change, but we can’t do it alone. It takes leadership and a strong commitment to the cause to take bold steps for meaningful change,” said East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, introducing Governor Hochul at the ceremony on a soundstage at LTV.
“This is the beginning of many more projects, to create many important jobs for people who need to transition to these jobs,” said Ms. Hochul, who added that two other offshore wind projects — Empire Wind and Beacon Wind — are in the works and are slated to come online in 2027 and 2028, respectively, bringing power to 1.3 million homes.
“But there’s nothing like being the first,” she said. “It’s always more expensive to be the first, but this is an important investment. The state has invested significant money to jumpstart this industry to ween us from fossil fuels.”
She added that the state’s investment in the industry, in collaboration with labor unions, is expected to bring a significant number of skilled union jobs to the New York, at a wind turbine manufacturing site in Albany, in which the state plans to invest $500 million, at a hub being built by offshore wind company Equinor at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, and on site at the wind farms being built off the coast. Equinor is building the Empire Wind project off of Long Beach and the Beacon Wind, in the same area as the South Fork Wind Farm. Ørsted also has another wind project in the works in that area — the 924 megawatt Sunrise Wind Farm.
Ørsted Offshore North America, which is building the South Fork Wind Farm with New England electric transmission company Eversource, is also opening an operations and maintenance hub in East Setauket, which will utilize the deepwater port at Port Jefferson.
“I want to see more women in these jobs, and I know the labor unions want this as well,” said Ms. Hochul.
“We’re making sure we have opportunities for people of all color and all communities” for these jobs, she added. This effort is in line with the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, passed in June of 2019.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Halland, the first Native American to hold that post, began her remarks by acknowledging that the press conference was taking place on the ancestral lands of the Shinnecock Nation.
“We want to promote the development of a robust domestic supply chain, and ensure we create good-paying union jobs,” she said. “New York has long been a leader in advancing offshore wind, with the most ambitious offshore wind goals in the nation. That has helped create the excitement in the market that we have today.”
Ms. Haaland added that the Biden-Harris administration has set a goal of creating 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, which would be greatly furthered by New York’s goal of creating 9 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2035.
“These goals are ambitious, but they are absolutely necessary and we can meet them,” she said. “The climate crisis demands immediate attention,” she added, highlighting that the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure law will play a big role in creating a “cleaner future for our children, our grandchildren and many generations to come.”
“This is a really emotional day for me. We’re transitioning from seven years of work that was powerpoints, Excel spreadsheets and lab reports to actually moving dirt,” said Ørsted Offshore North America CEO David Hardy, adding that, in the mid-2000s, his company was a fossil fuel company, which has since pivoted to go all in on green energy.
“East Hampton also recognized its own need for transformation,” he said. “The green energy future means jobs, with turbines built in the U.S. with American labor. New York can become an exporter of offshore wind to the rest of the world. Let’s go build this wind farm.”
Eversource Energy President & CEO Joe Nolan thanked New York for its hospitality to his Massachusetts-based energy company, augmenting his Boston accent as he thanked attendees for their tolerance of Red Sox fans. He highlighted that the transmission cable is being installed, using union labor, by Long Island-based Haugland Energy Group, and promised “to source everything, from breakfast sandwiches to concrete, locally.”
Ørsted’s New York Market Affairs Manager Jennifer Garvey said there are many points of entry for people interested in working in the offshore wind industry, including by contacting Long Island labor unions. Haugland Energy Group, which is installing the transmission cable, has working agreements with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1049 and International Union of Operating Engineers Local 138.
“The union is a great path in,” said Ms. Garvey, adding that there will be more jobs all along the supply chain for parts for the turbines, as well as at permitting agencies and for scientists — all of which are actively recruiting women and people of color. This year, she said, Ørsted is expecting to directly hire 22 people, from engineers to operations and maintenance technicians, at its East Seatauket hub. Careers with Ørsted are posted online at us.orsted.com.
Everyone wasn’t thrilled with the goings-on in Wainscott Friday morning. The group Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott issued the following statement in response to the governor’s visit:
“We continue to support the move to renewable energy and celebrate the progress toward that goal. But we continue to have serious reservations regarding an infrastructure project that runs its cable through residential neighborhoods, and next to a PFAS superfund site, particularly when better alternative sites were available. Our focus will continue to be on protecting our community.”
The East Hampton Airport, just north of the four-mile cable route, is one of many airport sites on the East End and throughout the country that has recently been under investigation due to the presence of the compounds PFOA and PFOS, which had historically been used in firefighting foam, in the groundwater. East Hampton Town and the Suffolk County Water Authority partnered in 2018 to bring public water to residents who had private wells contaminated by the plume.
At the corner of Wainscott Northwest Road and Wainscott Stone Road, along the proposed cable route, someone had placed red and blue ribbons around the trunk of a large tree, with two hand-lettered signs leaning against its roots reading “Respect Our Trees.”
Governor Hochul didn’t mince words in response to the criticism.
“It’s a short-term disruption, with the long term benefit of weening ourselves from fossil fuels,” she said. “I understand the frustration, but ultimately they planned it in a way to limit the disruption.”