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Federal Wind Farm Review Concludes With Favorable Decision

Wed, 11/24/2021 - 15:10
The South Fork Wind Farm will consist of up to 12 turbines similar to those of the Block Island Wind Farm, pictured above.
Doug Kuntz

The South Fork Wind farm, which would be New York State’s first offshore wind farm, took another major step forward on Wednesday when the federal Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued a favorable Record of Decision, a move that concludes the project’s federal environmental review. 

The Record documents the decision to approve the plan to install up to 12 turbines in federal waters approximately 35 miles east of Montauk Point. It adopts a range of measures meant to avoid, minimize, and mitigate potential impacts that could result from the construction and operation of the proposed project, according to a statement from the Interior Department. These requirements were developed after consultation with tribes; federal, state, and local government agencies; industry experts; ocean users, and other partners and stakeholders.

The Record of Decision is jointly signed by and addresses permitting decisions by BOEM and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Approval of South Fork Wind represents the Interior Department’s second approval of a commercial-scale offshore wind energy project. In an announcement on Wednesday, the department called the approximately 130-megawatt wind farm “part of the Biden-Harris administration’s goal to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.”

BOEM’s Record of Decision comes two days after the State Public Service Commission approved the wind farm developers’ environmental management and construction plan. The P.S.C.’s jurisdiction concerns the portion of the wind farm that would lie in state waters and on land. 

The wind farm’s developers, Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind and Eversource Energy, said in a statement on Wednesday that South Fork Wind is on track to be fully permitted by early next year, with construction activities to ramp up soon. The project is expected to power approximately 70,000 average-size residences with clean and renewable energy when it begins operations at the end of 2023.

In a statement issued by Orsted and Eversource, Gov. Kathy Hochul said that “New York State is facing the challenges of climate change head-on, and we thank the Biden-Harris Administration for their steadfast support. With today’s permitting milestone, South Fork Wind is set to be New York’s historic first offshore wind farm providing clean energy where it is needed most. Our nation-leading climate and offshore wind goals demand bold action and moving South Fork Wind forward brings us closer to a cleaner and greener future.” 
In the same statement, David Hardy, chief executive officer of Orsted Offshore North America, thanked elected officials including those in East Hampton. “South Fork Wind will not only boost the economy with family-sustaining jobs, but it will also help combat climate change and reduce air pollution as a clean energy resource for many Long Island residents.” 
“The offshore wind industry is the future of our Long Island economy, and Suffolk County is proud to serve as a national model for creating a greener future for generations to come,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said in the same statement. “Offshore wind projects are a critical part of our comprehensive plan to combat climate change and mitigate its effects on Long Islanders, and today’s announcement brings this historic project one step closer to reality.”

Several other elected officials and environmental, renewable energy, and labor advocates cheered BOEM’s approval. “This is a gratifying moment in the long-delayed transition to clean energy for eastern Long Island,” Judith Hope, a former East Hampton Town supervisor and founder of Win With Wind, said in the developers’ statement. “Win With Wind is proud and grateful to the community for the outpouring of support.” 

The wind farm, according to the Interior Department, will create around 340 jobs. Site preparation work and onshore construction of the wind farm’s transmission cable, which is to make landfall at the ocean beach at the end of Beach Lane in Wainscott and travel on an underground path to the Long Island Power Authority substation in East Hampton, could begin in January 2022, the developers said. Fabrication of the wind farm’s offshore substation is already in process. 

Offshore installation of the monopile foundations and 11-megawatt Siemens-Gamesa wind turbines is expected to begin in summer 2023.
BOEM’s issuance of the Record of Decision is to be followed in January by final approval of the wind farm’s Construction and Operations Plan. The COP outlines the project’s uniform one nautical mile turbine layout, the construction methodology for all work occurring in federal waters, a fishing industry compensation plan, and mitigation measures to protect species such as the endangered North Atlantic right whale.

Prior to construction, the developers must submit a facility design report and a fabrication and installation report, which provide details for how the facility will be fabricated and installed in accordance with the approved plan for construction and operations.

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