Ørsted Wins Bid From New York State For Large New Wind Farm Off Montauk

Two new offshore wind farms won bids from New York State on Thursday to produce enough power for as many as 1 million homes. NYSERDA image

State officials announced last week that energy supply contracts will be awarded to two offshore wind farm developers for the construction of giant wind farms in the waters off Long Island—including one southeast of Montauk that could bring power ashore onto the South Fork, possibly Hampton Bays.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office said it will seek to ink contracts with two projects, known as Empire Wind and Sunrise Wind, that could lead to the construction of more than 200 turbines in two areas of ocean, producing enough power for as many as 850,000 homes.

The five wind turbines of the Block Island Wind Farm, which was built by Deepwater Wind. Capt. Michael Potts

The Sunrise Wind project was proposed by Ørsted U.S. Offshore and Eversource, the companies that now own Deepwater Wind and the plans for the South Fork Wind Farm.

The Sunrise Wind proposal calls for as many as 100 turbines to be erected in the same general area of ocean as the much smaller South Fork Wind Farm, about 30 nautical miles southeast of Montauk. The company’s pitch to the state says it expects that the project could be constructed and operational by 2024, just two years after the South Fork Wind Farm is supposed to come online.

Ørsted and Eversource, which, through their purchase of Deepwater, now own the leases to more than 500 square miles of sea floor south of New England. They also have two other offshore wind farm development projects in the works totaling as many as 200 turbines, which will send power into Rhode Island and Connecticut.

The Sunrise Wind project would produce about 800 megawatts of power for Long Island. The exact number of turbines could vary, depending on the size of the turbines employed, and probably wouldn’t be finalized for several years.

The proposal calls for the wind farm to be connected to a power substation in Holbrook, via cable that would have to come ashore somewhere on the East End. When the bids to the state were submitted in February, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said that he was given a “head’s up” by Ørsted officials that one of the options for the power connection cable was for it to come ashore near Shinnecock Inlet in Hampton Bays.

The other project awarded by the state on Thursday, July 18, was for Empire Wind, a similarly sized development proposal that would be built on a slice of sea floor in the New York Bight, south of Jones Beach and western Fire Island. That proposal comes from Norwegian energy giant Equinor, which owns the only current wind energy lease area in the New York Bight area.

The two projects would total about 1,700 megawatts of power production at their peak output. Governor Cuomo has said that he wants the state to be drawing some 9,000 megawatts of power—enough for about 4.5 million homes—from offshore wind power by 2030.

“With this agreement, New York will lead the way in developing the largest source of offshore wind power in the nation, and today I will sign the most aggressive climate law in the United States of America,” the governor said in a statement last Thursday. “Today, we are true to the New York legacy—to lead the way forward, to govern with vision and intelligence, to set a new standard, and to match our words with action.”

The state also touted the economic benefits that it sees the spurring of major offshore wind energy development bring with it, in the form of jobs. Governor Cuomo’s office said it is forecasting as many as 1,600 new jobs in New York, and $3.2 billion in additional economic activity, connected to these first wind farms and their successors.

Part of Ørsted’s pitch for the recent round of bidding was a proposal for a port facility in Port Jefferson, for ships and equipment to be used in the construction of its wind farms. It has also pledged $10 million for a “national workforce training center” somewhere on Long Island to train workers for jobs in offshore wind development projects. The company has also said that components of its projects will be manufactured in the region.

Critics have said that the recent explosion of industrial-scale offshore wind projects threatens the health of fish populations along the East Coast, further threatens already endangered populations of northern right whales, and will not result in the environmental benefits touted by the companies, which stand to make billions of dollars off the development of offshore wind farms.

“The only people who will make money off of these things is the foreign wind companies and their hedge fund investors,” said Bonnie Brady, a commercial fishing advocate from Montauk. “Fishermen fish in those areas—they try to make their livings in those areas. This will mean months of pile-driving and jet-plowing and the destruction of hundreds of square miles of benthic habitat. That should freak out anyone who enjoys eating fresh local fish.”

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is currently considering where to create vast new wind energy leases in the waters south of Long Island to accommodate the demand that is expected as New York and other states start to call for more and more offshore wind power.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has recommended that it create two very large areas on either side of the main shipping lanes in the New York Bight to accommodate hundreds of turbines in areas mostly over the horizon from land. But the federal agency has also left open the possibility of using other portions of sea floor to the east—including one area directly south of the South Fork that could put turbines within visible distance of South Fork beaches, a proposal that has been met, at first blush, with objections from local lawmakers.