Pictured Above: The first offshore wind turbine to send power to Long Island (foreground), with the third turbine being installed. In total, 12 turbines at the South Fork Wind Farm are slated to provide enough power for 70,000 Long Island homes. |. Beth Young photos

Dotting the horizon like large vertical liferafts emerging from the fog, a grid of 12 yellow monopoles that will become the foundations for the South Fork Wind Farm are being fitted this month with towers and blades for the first utility-scale wind farm in federal waters in the United States.

As of this week, power is now flowing from the first wind turbine at the South Fork Wind Farm, 35 miles off of Montauk, to Long Island’s electric grid.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday, Dec. 6 that the first turbine had been “powered up,” providing electricity through an undersea cable that comes ashore on Beach Lane in Wainscott, traveling to a substation in East Hampton.

A third turbine was being installed on Thursday, Dec. 7, when Ørsted and Eversource brought more than 100 reporters and stakeholders to the wind farm to have a look at the project. All 12 turbines are expected to be installed by early 2024.

The Long Island Power Authority agreed to purchase much of the power produced by the wind farm back in 2017, when it was proposed by a company called Deepwater Wind, which was since acquired by Ørsted, a major offshore wind developer in Europe. The project went through an extensive federal, state and local permitting process before breaking ground in the winter of 2022, beginning with the onshore work to tie into the East Hampton substation.

The LIPA Board approved 20-year pay-for-performance Power Purchase Agreements for the project, allowing the utility to only pay for delivered energy without taking construction or operating risk, paying 16 cents per kilowatt/hour for power produced by the first 90 megawatts of the project, and 8.6 cents per kilowatt/hour for the remaining 40 megawatts, with price escalations of 2 percent per year for 20 years.

Offshore work began in earnest this summer, as the monopoles were set in the seabed beginning in June as the turbine towers and components arrived on State Pier in New London for their final trip, aboard Van Oord’s offshore installation vessel, the Aeolus, out to the wind farm for final assembly.

The final phase of the South Fork Wind installation is taking place just as the industry is regrouping in the wake of supply chain and inflation pressures that led Ørsted to cancel contracts for two major wind farms in New Jersey, and as the New York Public Service Commission voted in mid-October to decline requests for major increases in contracts already in place for Ørsted and Eversource’s Sunrise Wind project, slated to be in waters adjacent to South Fork Wind, and for Equinor and BP’s Empire Wind off the coast of Long Beach.

While Governor Hochul said at the time of the Public Service Commission’s vote that it was necessary to preserve a competitive energy market and protect ratepayers, she insisted the state remains committed to its goal of producing much of the state’s electric power through offshore wind.

“South Fork Wind will power thousands of homes, create good-paying union jobs and demonstrate to all that offshore wind is a viable resource New York can harness for generations to come,” she said as she announced the turbine was producing power. When completed in early 2024, the wind farm is expected to produce 130 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 70,000 Long Island homes.

The governor added that she remains committed to the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act goal to install nine gigawatts of offshore wind by 2035.

State Assemblyman Fred Thiele said he also supports those goals.

“There can be no doubt anymore that climate change is real. Every day, we are seeing the adverse impacts on eastern Long Island and across the globe,” he said. “New York State has been a leader in policy innovation attacking climate change. The enactment of the New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which I co-sponsored, established aggressive goals to substantially reduce carbon emissions by 2050 by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, like wind power. This project marks a significant first step toward reaching our climate goals.”

Activists rallied outside LIPA headquarters Tuesday morning.
Activists rallied for offshore wind outside LIPA headquarters in December of 2016, just prior to the utility company’s acceptance of the project.

Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito, who was one of the leaders of a crowd leading a chant of “We Want Wind!” in front of LIPA headquarters back in 2016, was on the Dec. 7 boat trip out to see the wind farm.

The boat slowed to a speed of 10 knots just east of Block Island, in a right whale protection area where Ørsted has an agreement in place with environmental organizations to reduced boat speeds to avoid vessel strikes, in addition to using technologies ranging from thermal imaging cameras to acoustic sensors and data integration software to ensure work isn’t done while whales are in the area.

“This is truly thrilling and historic. As the turbines turn, we also turn a page in the history of energy production,” said Ms. Esposito. “Wind turbines are beacons of hope for a cleaner, safer energy supply which benefits every New Yorker. CCE has supported offshore wind for 18 years and now to see it finally implemented is a dream turned into reality.”

This project is just the tip of a new industry for the United States — Ørsted is having offshore installation, crew transfer and service operations vessels built in Rhode Island and Louisiana, and the Texas-built offshore substation, on one of the monopoles at the wind farm site, is the first of its kind built in the United States.

The offshore substation at South Fork Wind.

Ørsted has also invested heavily on Long Island, supporting a National Offshore Wind Training Center being established at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus and building operations and maintenance infrastructure in Port Jefferson and Setauket.

The state is also working to encourage the construction of offshore wind turbines in Albany, which would be taken down the Hudson River to the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park for deployment off the East Coast.

“We are extremely disappointed to announce that we are ceasing the development of Ocean Wind 1 and 2,” Orsted Group President Mads Nipper said in an Oct. 31 announcement of the company’s plans to restructure its portfolio. “We firmly believe the US needs offshore wind to achieve its carbon emissions reduction ambition, and we remain committed to the US renewables market and truly value the efforts by the US government to support the build-up of the US offshore wind industry. However, the significant adverse developments from supply chain challenges, leading to delays in the project schedule, and rising interest rates have led us to this decision, and we will now assess the best way to preserve value while we cease development of the projects. At the same time, with an attractive forward-looking value creation, we progress the Revolution Wind project into the construction phase.”

Ørsted also said in that announcement that it “welcomes NYSERDA’s (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) request for information on an accelerated solicitation for offshore wind capacity, which could provide an opportunity to rebid Sunrise Wind, which Ørsted owns in a 50/50 partnership with Eversource, at a price level that reflects current component and financing costs. Ørsted awaits the conditions of the request for proposal to determine whether to rebid or not.”

NYSERDA issued the solicitation on Nov. 30, with a proposal submission deadline of Jan. 25, 2024.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she 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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