New York State has leaped into the era of offshore wind power, with electricity generated over the Atlantic Ocean now flowing to homes on Long Island.
The power is coming from the first completed turbine of 12 that will make up South Fork Wind, the first large-scale offshore wind farm to go online in the United States. It is being transmitted, starting last week, through an undersea cable to a substation in East Hampton, then distributed to customers of the Long Island Power Authority, officials announced on Wednesday.
“What’s good about it is, it works,” said Thomas Falcone, chief executive of the power authority.
The wind farm, about 35 miles east of Montauk Point, is still under construction. When it is finished, it will be capable of producing 132 megawatts of electricity — enough to power about 70,000 homes.
Most, if not all, of that power will be consumed by utility customers in East Hampton and surrounding communities. But the higher cost of producing the additional electricity offshore will be shared by all customers of the Long Island Power Authority.
“The electricity flows to where it’s needed,” said Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, a nonprofit advocacy group. “If it’s needed in East Hampton, it will flow to those users. If not all of it is needed there, it could go anywhere else on the island.”
Why It Matters: Offshore wind is supposed to power the future.
The transmission is a big step forward in what officials in New York and several other states run by Democrats have promised will be a sweeping transition away from power generated by fossil fuels. Those states, mostly in the Northeast, have pinned their hopes for a greener future on developing renewable sources of power, like wind and solar.
New York has drawn up plans for building several more wind farms in the Atlantic that would provide nine gigawatts of electricity — enough to power about 450,000 homes. Those projects are critical to President Biden’s goal of getting 30 gigawatts of power from offshore wind by 2030.
Those ambitious plans have started to unravel, however, as inflation and rising interest rates have driven up the costs of erecting giant turbines in the ocean. Some wind-farm developers have sought to renegotiate the terms of contracts with state agencies and some have pulled out of projects altogether.
Several weeks ago, Orsted, a Danish company that is building South Fork Wind, canceled plans to erect two large wind farms off the coast of New Jersey. The company said that rising costs and disruptions of the supply chain for turbine parts had made those projects unfeasible.
What’s Next: Big decisions about bigger wind farms.
South Fork Wind will be the only source of offshore wind power to New York for quite a while, if not forever.
The state has contracts with developers of four additional wind farms off the coast of Long Island, all of them considerably larger than South Fork Wind. But their builders, pinched by inflation and supply chain problems, asked the state this summer for big increases in how much utility customers would pay for their power.
When state officials refused to grant the much larger subsidies, the developers said they were undecided about following through on the projects. One of those projects is Sunrise Wind, another Orsted development that was scheduled to be completed in 2025.
Hoping to stay on schedule for reaching its clean-energy goals, the state responded last week by soliciting new bids for the contracts. Those bids are due in late January.
David Hardy, chief executive of Orsted’s Americas region, said his company had not made a final decision about Sunrise Wind but was “excited” about the prospect of bidding again and providing more power from offshore wind to the Northeast.