The wind turbine project planned off the coast of Montauk is dead in the water, at least for now.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management confirmed this week that Deepwater Wind has asked the federal agency to halt its review of the project for the foreseeable future.
Dubbed the South Fork Wind Farm, the 15-turbine project would be located in the Atlantic Ocean 35 miles east of Montauk.
BOEM has confirmed in a missive that the “environmental review of the Deepwater Wind’s construction and operations plan (COP) is currently paused by request of Deepwater Wind.” The document on BOEM letterhead is signed by a BOEM official whose name has been redacted. However Stephen Boutwell, a spokesman for BOEM, confirmed the document’s accuracy Monday.
Ørsted, which acquired Deepwater Wind, indicated to BOEM that a revised COP will be filed. If that proves to be the case, BOEM’s time-consuming review process will commence anew. Given the current time frame, however, it seems highly unlikely Deepwater will meet its goal of coming online in 2022.
The document stated that it does “not anticipate significant changes to the COP.” The draft environmental impact statement “will likely be released this fall and there will be a public comment period on the Draft EIS.” The public comment period will be 45 days.
Boutwell said BOEM is not privy to what Deepwater would do next or whether the project will be permanently shelved. “You’d have to ask Deepwater that,” he said.
In the winter of 2018, Clint Plummer, Deepwater Wind’s vice president of development, repeatedly told the East Hampton Town Board and said at public gatherings and hearings, that Deepwater had to begin a lengthy review process by June of that year if it were to meet its goals of coming online by 2022. He urged the town board to grant an easement for Deepwater to bring its cable ashore in Wainscott, stating the review couldn’t begin without one.
The town board as well as the board of trustees balked, but Deepwater announced it would begin the review process, called an Article 7, anyway.
Aileen Kenney, a Deepwater Wind vice president, and Plummer said in April 2018 that Deepwater Wind needed the easements before it could submit permit applications to the more than 20 federal and state entities involved; Councilman Jeffrey Bragman, an attorney, debunked that statement. He is among those who have always been dubious of the numbers Deepwater has floated.
“I have felt for a while that Deepwater was not nearly on schedule, even from the Article 7 review,” Bragman said. “I don’t think the economics of the project work.”
The town board then issued a conditional approval of the easement subject to review. The town trustees have yet to rule on the matter.
Kenney said if the company met its original construction schedule, the wind farm could begin generating electricity in 2022 and provide power to some 50,000 residences on the South Fork, according to company officials. But it has languished, the process coming to a virtual standstill.
In September 2018, Deepwater published a legal notice announcing its intention to “file an application with the New York Public Service Commission (‘the Commission’) for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need (‘Certificate’) pursuant to Article VII of the New York Public Service Law.”
Almost immediately after issuing the notice Deepwater was sold. Ørsted entered into an agreement with the D.E. Shaw Group to acquire a 100 percent equity interest at a purchase price of USD $510 million.
On February 8, 2019, Ørsted sold 50 percent stake in two offshore wind farms and two lease areas off the U.S.’s north-east coast to New England utility Eversource for about $225 million.
Meanwhile, the size of the project was increased 44 percent by employing larger turbines than originally planned, PSEG Long Island said. South Fork Wind will use more powerful wind generators to increase the output of the project to a total 130 megawatts from a previously planned 90 megawatts, PSEG said.
The BOEM official quizzed did not reply to a question of whether that increase would trigger a new application.
Ørsted did not return phone call or emails asking for comment by press time. Responses, if forthcoming, will be published in next week’s issue.
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