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Another Yes for South Fork Wind Farm

Wed, 11/24/2021 - 09:56

The South Fork Wind farm took another step toward fruition on Monday when the New York State Public Service Commission approved its developers’ environmental management and construction plan.

Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind and Eversource Energy, developers of the 12-turbine wind farm to be situated about 35 miles east of Montauk Point, submitted the plan to the commission in April.

The commission’s jurisdiction concerns the portion of the wind farm that would lie in state waters and on land. That comprises approximately 3.5 miles of export cable lying between the state’s territorial waters boundary and the ocean beach where it is to come ashore in Wainscott, at the end of Beach Lane, as well as the approximately 4.1 miles of its underground path to the Long Island Power Authority substation in East Hampton, from which it will connect to the electrical grid.

Comments were received from entities including Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott, which was formed to oppose the cable landing in that hamlet, Climate Jobs NY, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the State Department of Transportation, East Hampton Town, and the town trustees. The developers amended the plan to address those comments.

Most critical comments came from Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott, which launched a drive to incorporate a portion of the hamlet as a village as a means to thwart the cable’s landing there. A petition to force a vote was rejected by Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, and the effort has been dormant in recent months. The developers responded to the group’s charges in an August supplement to the plan.

The town’s comments expressed concern about the noise resulting from pile-driving where the cable will come ashore and requested that an approved plan include nighttime noise mitigation measures, specify the locations of pile-driving, and provide measures to ease any potential vibration impacts to structures near such activity.

The developers responded that the work will be performed only during daytime hours so nighttime mitigation measures are unnecessary. Work is expected to be performed over a two-to-three-day period, but “the noise-generating components of the work will only occur during one of those three days,” and “vibrations radiating from the piling locations are not a concern due to the sandy soil characteristics” at the site, according to the commission’s order approving the plan.

The trustees raised concerns that delays in initiating agreed-to fisheries studies do not comply with a condition of the Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need, previously issued by the state, which requires the submission of a final fisheries studies work plan with the environmental management and construction plan. The developers are to provide funding for five years of study “and shall use best efforts to collect two years of pre-construction data, one year of data during construction, and two years of data following commercial operation,” according to the commission.

A monthslong delay in initiating monitoring ahead of construction “delayed data collection during the 2021 spring migration season,” which the trustees called significant and irreplaceable.

The developers countered that they are required to use “best efforts” to collect such data, but cited delays because of “a lengthy process to on-board the necessary subject matter experts and to procure the necessary vessel and equipment,” exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The current studies will include the fall 2021 and spring and fall 2022 migrations ahead of in-water construction, which is to commence in one year.

Electrification will not begin until after the spring 2023 migration, the developers said, so that monitoring will also be included in the studies. Delaying construction at sea until after the spring 2023 migration “would have significant and irreparable consequences,” including a delay in meeting the state’s climate goals “and the needs of Long Island customers for additional power supply.”

“Upon review, the commission finds that the certificate holder has adequately addressed the comments and concerns raised by the commentors,” according to its order approving the plan.

“South Fork Wind is moving steadily toward the start of construction with the P.S.C.’s completion of its review,” a spokeswoman for Orsted and Eversource said on Monday, “marking the latest state approval milestone for New York’s first offshore wind farm.”

The developers expect the wind farm to be fully permitted early in 2022, the spokeswoman said, with construction ramping up soon thereafter. The wind farm is expected to be operational by the end of 2023.

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