By Stephen J. Kotz
With Deepwater Wind’s proposed 90-megawatt wind farm off Montauk approved by the Long Island Power Authority board of trustees on January 25, the Rhode Island based company is eager to get rolling on the $740 million project.
Deepwater CEO Jeff Grybowski on Monday said the company was still hoping to complete the wind farm, which will consist of between 12 and 15 turbines able to generate from 6 to 8 megawatts of electricity each, by 2022, even though he acknowledged the company has been set back about five months after LIPA unexpectedly delayed approving the project last summer.
The South Fork Wind Farm will provide enough energy for 50,000 houses and would help East Hampton Town meet a goal of providing all its energy through renewable energy.
“This is a big day for clean energy in New York and our nation,” he said in a release shortly after the announcement was made. “There is a huge clean energy resource blowing off of our coastline just over the horizon, and it is time to tap into this unlimited resource to power our communities.”
The next big step, he said — and one the company has set aside three years to complete — is the permitting process. Deepwater has already leased ocean bottom through the federal Department of the Interior, and now it must obtain a permit for the project from the department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management as well as a number of New York State agencies, he said.
Although the administration of President Donald J. Trump has signaled it favors more traditional sources of energy, like oil, natural gas, and coal, Mr. Grybowski said he did not anticipate any logjams coming out of Washington.
If Deepwater does encounter problems, it may come in the form of opposition from commercial fishermen. Already, fishing groups have sued over plans to develop an area closer to New York City known as the New York bight with wind turbines.
Bonnie Brady, the director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, is one of those dissenting voices. She says the public has been sold a bill of goods that such developments are environmentally friendly.
“The only green about this project is that which will be lining the investors’ pockets,” she said on Tuesday. Fishermen have been criticized for only being interested in protecting their business, “but it’s also about protecting the ocean,” she said.
Ms. Brady said pile-driving the foundations and other underwater work would destroy habitat that would take years to recover, and she said studies have shown that the sonar disturbances caused by the wind turbines could have additional harmful effects on fish.
The wind farm is slated for an area called Coxes Ledge that is frequented by fishermen. “It’s not just commercial guys, there’s a bunch of charters and recreational fishermen too,” said Ms. Brady.
She added that Deepwater officials had met with fishermen from both Rhode Island and Massachusetts, but had yet to meet with New York fishermen.
Both Mr. Grybowski and East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, who has been a strong supporter of the Deepwater project, said they intend to hold meetings with various stakeholders to smooth over any problems.
“We’ve been working for commercial fishermen for years,” Mr. Grybowski said, adding that he believed the five-turbine farm that went into service late last year and was the first offshore wind farm in the United States had been well vetted by both government and commercial fishermen.
The company, he said, has plans to build many more turbines in the Atlantic and has leased enough land to build another 200 turbines.
The wind farm was approved as Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced a plan to provide 50 percent of New York State’s energy through renewable means by 2030. As part of that plan, he has called for the development of 2.4 gigawatts of power, enough to provide electricity for 1.25 million houses.
The power from Deepwater’s project would be transmitted to a substation in East Hampton, where it would be used to meet local electrical needs first, with surplus energy sent farther up island, Mr. Grybowski said.
Under the agreement reached last week, LIPA will commit to buying all the electricity generated by the wind farm for 20 years at a cost expected to reach $1 billion.
Mr. Grybowski said Deepwater would soon begin the task of choosing companies to provide the turbines. The company would likely look for a place to stage some of its construction on Long Island, but he said that would not be in East Hampton because it does not have a suitable commercial port.