New York State’s decision last week to award two “massive” offshore wind power contracts to Norwegian energy giant Equinor will more than double the size of a planned wind farm off the coast of Long Island. It also promises “substantial” upgrades to a section of the electric grid at Oceanside.
The plan, announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last week as part of an expansive post-COVID-19 green economy, would bring the number the number of turbines expected to be spinning off the South Shore by 2027 to around 170, encompassing some 80,000 acres from Jones Beach to Islip, the company said. New York has a stated goal of some 9,000 megawatts of wind power by 2035, to displace carbon-belching conventional plants.
The state awarded the projects to Norwegian energy giant Equinor, which in 2019 was awarded a separate contract for 816 megawatts in a project called Empire Wind 1, some 15 miles off Jones Beach. That project will be constructed by 2024 directly adjacent to the newly awarded Empire Wind 2 and will be “built as one project, in sequence,” said Siri Espedal Kindem, president of Equinor’s U.S. Wind division. Empire Wind 2 is expected to be comprised of some 90 turbines.
She said the company is interested in bidding for new lease areas off the coast of Long Island, a process currently stalled under the Trump Administration.
Empire Wind 2 would have a maximum capacity of 1,260 megawatts, while the second state-awarded project called Beacon Wind, to be located 60 miles northeast of Montauk off the Massachusetts coast, has a capacity of 1,230 megawatts.
The combined 2,490 megawatt output from the latest round of turbines, which could be more than 800 feet tall, would be enough to power millions of homes throughout the downstate region. By comparison, the Northport power station owned by National Grid, has a maximum capacity of around 1,600 megawatts.
For Long Island, the Empire 2 project, which will be built some 20 miles off Jones Beach and as far as 35 miles eastward toward Islip, promises “substantial” local grid upgrades in Oceanside, commitments for job training and recruitment from surrounding communities, and Long Island’s share of $47 million in workforce development and community benefit funds the company is making available statewide, the company said.
Empire Wind 1 and 2 will be run from an operation-and-maintenance facility planned for South Brooklyn, with hiring expected to come from Nassau County and Brooklyn, said Julia Bovey, Equinor U.S. Wind’s director of external affairs.
Equinor’s bid included commitments to manufacture wind turbine towers and foundations at a new port facility in Albany, with finished components to be shipped via the Hudson River. The bid also included a commitment to create 5,200 direct jobs statewide for the two projects, contributions to a state Offshore Wind Training Institute, and a significant investment in two ports, in South Brooklyn and Albany, to manufacture project components.
The combined “value-add” for the state of the two projects amounts to $4.5 billion, Bovey said.
Companies that seek to work with Equinor on the projects are advised to register at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s supply chain database, Bovey said. “We use that for all of our procurements,” she said.
Equinor didn’t release the final cost of energy from the new projects because the price is still under negotiation with NYSERDA. Empire Wind 1 had a listed price of 8.6 cents a kilowatt-hour, a price said to be competitive with existing natural-gas powered plants.
Bovey said the company has been “working closely” with fishing groups to ensure placement of the turbines doesn’t conflict with prime squid and scallop grounds.
But Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, said she remains opposed to the projects because “putting the turbines in those areas not only destroys the ability of several states’ fishermen to fish, it takes away from national food security.”
Bovey said the company has worked with fishermen in the United Kingdom to make sure they can continue to fish successfully amid the arrays, and there’s “no reason to believe that won’t be the case here as well,” she said.