As the offshore wind industry regroups after several recent setbacks, the first of 12 offshore wind turbines for South Fork Wind has been installed at a site about 35 miles off of Montauk, a historic milestone in what is expected to be the first utility-scale wind farm in federal waters in the United States.

The wind farm, which will connect to a substation in East Hampton via a cable that comes ashore on Beach Lane in Wainscott, is expected to power about 70,000 homes on Long Island.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced the milestone on Nov. 20 — the wind farm is a piece of the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act goal to install nine gigawatts of offshore wind by 2035.  

The Danish offshore wind company Ørsted, which is building the wind farm in a partnership with New England energy distribution company Eversource, expects all 12 Siemens Gamesa turbines “to be installed by the end of 2023 or early 2024.”

“New York is paving the way towards a clean energy future, and the installation of our first offshore wind turbine marks a momentous step forward,” said Governor Hochul. “We are not only generating clean energy, but also pioneering a healthy and safe environment for future generations of New Yorkers. We are shaping a brighter, greener tomorrow, committed to a future where innovation and sustainability go hand in hand.”  

LIPA’s Board of Trustees agreed to purchase power from the wind farm in 2017, and after extensive permitting, the project began onshore construction in February 2022, beginning with the onshore export cable system that links the project to the energy grid in East Hampton, which was completed early this year. The wind farm reached its “steel in the water” milestone in June 2023 with the installation of the project’s first monopile foundation. 

Van Oord’s offshore installation vessel, the Aeolus, is installing the turbines, using a crane to place the steel turbine tower onto the foundation, according to Ørsted. “The nacelle and rotor are then installed on top of the tower. Lastly, the blades are lifted and installed one by one by bolting them to the rotor.”

They provided a demonstration here about how offshore wind farms are constructed.  

Once in operation, South Fork Wind is expected be supported by U.S.-built crew transfer vessels and eventually by America’s first offshore wind Service Operations Vessel.  

The first turbine being installed. |. photo courtesy Ørsted

This project is just the tip of a new industry being developed on Long Island and in New York State — several other, much larger-scale offshore wind farms are in the pipeline, and an offshore wind worker training program, the National Offshore Wind Training Center is being established at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus, while Ørsted is 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.

The U.S. offshore wind industry has been facing growing pains in recent months. In late October, New York’s Public Service Commission voted to deny requests for inflation-related increases in NYSERDA contracts with renewable energy developers, including Ørsted’s Sunrise Wind projects adjacent to South Fork Wind, and Equinor’s Empire Wind off Long Beach.

While industry representatives and environmental advocates said the increases were necessary due to inflation and supply chain issues, Governor Hochul insisted higher rates would place an undue burden on ratepayers and hurt the competitive nature of the industry.

In an August conference call with reporters, Ørsted’s Chief Executive, Mads Nipper, said the “situation in U.S. offshore wind is severe,” and that the company was risking $2.3 million in “U.S. impairments” due to a lack of new tax credits, supply chain issues, and interest rates.

Ørsted canceled two of its contracts for wind farm projects in New Jersey in early November.

Despite the Public Service Commission’s denial of the increases, New York officials continued to reiterate their commitment to offshore wind as part of the state’s future. Governor Hochul announced Oct. 24 that the state had granted conditional awards to three new offshore wind farms and 22 land-based renewable energy projects, totaling 6.4 gigawatts.

The offshore wind projects include two to power New York City — Attentive Energy One and Community Offshore Wind, and Excelsior Wind, which would provide power to Long Island. Ørsted and Eversource had submitted proposals for Sunrise Wind to the state for this offshore wind solicitation, and while they weren’t selected, they say they are considering resubmitting the plans for a fourth round of offshore wind solicitations to be issued by the New York State Energy Research & Development Agency Nov. 30.

“We look forward to reviewing NYSERDA’s forthcoming RFP and appreciate the Hochul Administration’s swift action to keep New York’s offshore wind ambitions on track,” according to a Sunrise Wind spokesperson. “The state’s expedited action here will bolster New York’s ability to create thousands of well-paying service and manufacturing jobs in New York and to deliver clean offshore wind energy to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. Early-wave projects like Sunrise Wind are the only offshore wind farms that can be delivered within the next several years, a timeline that is critical to meeting the state’s 2030 clean energy targets.”

At 132 megawatts of capacity, the South Fork Wind project is much smaller than many of the other wind farms in the pipeline — the first phase of Sunrise Wind alone is expected to be 880 megawatts. Many environmental advocates and elected officials applauded the first turbine’s installation, and the imminent completion of the project, as a “proof of concept” for the industry.

“With today’s installation we achieve a key milestone in Governor Hochul’s efforts to propel New York State toward a clean-energy economy,” said Rory M. Christian, Chair of the New York State Public Service Commission.” Today’s announcement is a testament to the professionalism and commitment among all parties involved and is proof-positive that long-established plans are beginning to bear fruit.”

“The installation of the first offshore wind turbine to power New York is a milestone moment in our state’s and the nation’s transition to clean, green energy,” said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “This is the first of many clean energy projects that will transform New York’s power grid and economy, and the Inflation Reduction Act that I shepherded through Congress is paving the way for many of them, kick-starting the era of affordable, renewable energy.”

“South Fork Wind’s first turbine is a testament to American ingenuity and innovation. As we mark this incredible milestone, we’re grateful for the hard work of our dedicated team and all our suppliers and contractors, as well as for the support of the Biden-Harris administration, the Hochul administration, LIPA, and the East Hampton community for championing this trailblazing project,” said David Hardy, Ørsted Group Executive Vice President and CEO Americas.

“Every journey starts with the first step. In New York, the journey to a renewable future starts with our first offshore wind turbine!” said Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito. “We can now SEE New York’s transition to clean energy and its investment to large scale offshore wind. This first turbine in the water is a symbol of a new, cleaner, renewable era. An era that embraces healthy communities, local jobs, and cleaner air.” 

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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