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Governor Celebrates Completion of South Fork Wind Farm

Thu, 03/14/2024 - 15:42
Gov. Kathy Hochul was joined by local officials including, from left, East Hampton Town Councilman David Lys, Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni, East Hampton Town Supervisor Kathee Burke-Gonzalez and Councilwoman Cate Rogers, and Southampton Town Councilman Michael Iasilli.
Christopher Walsh

“Today, at long last, we flip the switch and turn on the future,” New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul announced at Stony Brook Southampton College on Thursday morning, as officials including Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine, East Hampton Town Supervisor Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, and Francis Bock, clerk of the town trustees, celebrated completion of the South Fork Wind farm, the nation’s first utility-scale offshore wind farm. 

A triumphant and long-awaited moment for proponents of clean energy followed when the governor and other officials including the wind farm’s developers flipped an oversize switch — “it really works,” the governor said — to “officially bring the turbines online,” she said. “And I assure you, it will have national ramifications.”

Construction of the 12-turbine, 132 megawatt wind farm, located around 35 miles off Montauk Point, was recently completed. It will provide clean, renewable electricity sufficient to power around 70,000 average-size houses. 

The developers, Orsted and Eversource Energy, and state and local officials had celebrated the first power flowing from the first completed turbine just three months ago at an event at East Hampton Town Hall. On Thursday, the governor was among officials noting that a ceremonial groundbreaking for the wind farm’s construction had taken place almost two years to the day earlier, at LTV Studios in Wainscott. 

Proponents of offshore wind were jubilant on Thursday, the completion and operation of the wind farm representing their perseverance in the face of opposition from many East Hampton residents, including commercial fishermen and some residents of Wainscott, where the wind farm’s export cable makes landfall at the ocean beach at Beach Lane. Some residents sought to create an incorporated village in order to thwart the town and town trustees’ agreement allowing the developers to land the cable there and send it underground to the Long Island Power Authority substation in East Hampton. 

That effort was unsuccessful, but the governor acknowledged “some tough decisions” required of the East Hampton Town Board. “This was not an easy lift for you, because you certainly heard from a lot of constituents,” she said. “I understand that pressure and I commend you for powering through all that and making sure that we could be here today.”

“Today we’re making an incredible milestone of progress for New York,” she said. “The completion of the very first of its kind — not just for New York, not just for the northeast, but for all of America: a historic green energy project, wind turbines to power the future.”

The wind farm “is nothing short of a triumph for New York,” the governor said. “It’s a truly momentous occasion for this clean energy announcement, and I’m proud to state that the rest of the nation is watching. This is how you get it done.” She credited President Biden, who “made this one of his top priorities when he was elected back in 2020, that he wanted to push hard, push this nation toward a greener, more sustainable future, and I want to give him a lot of credit for putting his mark on what is happening here today.” The wind farm “will serve as a beacon for the rest of the nation, a statement to everyone of what is possible. And this will be emulated time and time again.”

The governor credited organized labor, and touted the many jobs created and a nascent industry that she said the state will dominate. “What an extraordinary credit to them for what they did,” she said. “This is unprecedented. There was not a playbook for this at apprentice school, I guarantee it. Everybody had to deal with new technology and new challenges. To go out 35 miles from the shore and get something done, that is extraordinary.” 

The state will “stand up a brand-new domestic supply chain,” she said. “You know why? Because I don’t ever want to be vulnerable to geopolitical concerns or supply chains or ships that are jammed up in ports. I’m not predicting another Covid event, but my god, we learned some lessons. And we have to make sure we build here in America.”

She also spoke of climate change and recalled touring Long Island beaches with local officials after extreme weather events. “This is what we’re so vulnerable to, this is what we’re exposed to. And we saw that devastation, angry surges that are getting more and more frequent. Water temperatures are soaring. How disruptive this is to our nautical ecosystems, but also the effect it has on the ferocity of the winds and the waves. Sea levels are climbing — certainly dangerous when we’re surrounded by water here.”

She recalled being a young staffer on Capitol Hill in Washington “right after Jimmy Carter left town” in 1981. Former President Carter “had all kinds of incentives to stimulate the growth of a clean energy future. Tax credits for wind and solar and all kinds of ideas people thought were too crazy, and they were repealed by the Ronald Reagan budget. We stood together as young staffers and said ‘what’s going to happen now?’ because Jimmy Carter had envisioned a future free from being strangled by fossil fuels, especially as we were so reliant on OPEC and the Middle East. . . . Just imagine our world today if we had stayed on the path that we’d been put on.”  

“I hope there’s a collective sense of urgency around this now,” the governor said. “Under my watch as governor of the greatest state in the nation, nothing will stand in our way.” The state has “some of the most ambitious energy goals in the nation,” she said: 70 percent of electricity generated from renewable sources by 2030, a zero-emission electric grid by 2040, and an “85-precent statewide reduction in climate pollution by 2050.”

“My friends, this is just the beginning,” she concluded, promising “more projects coming down the pipeline, more grounds to break and ribbons to cut. And when it comes to offshore wind, we’ve just scratched the surface. Together, we’re going to build a New York that innovates and thinks dynamically and creatively, and is proactive about addressing the future.”

“Mother Nature is not waiting for us,” she said. "She is making sure we hear her loud and clear: Stop assaulting our earth. And with this move today we are doing our part, an extraordinary part, in leading that future for future generations. And I want to thank everyone, because nothing matters as much as this.”

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