Equinor’s construction and operations plan (COP) for the Empire Wind off New York was approved Feb. 22 by the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management, the final permitting for a two-stage project with a potential maximum capacity of 2,706 megawatts.

“We are proud to announce BOEM’s final approval of the Empire Wind offshore wind project," said agency Director Elizabeth Klein. "This project represents a major milestone in our efforts to expand clean energy production and combat climate change. The Biden-Harris administration is committed to advancing offshore wind projects like Empire Wind to create jobs, drive economic growth, and cut harmful climate pollution.”

The approval comes amid continued tumult and repositioning by offshore wind power developers. In late January Equinor and bp announced they would split their joint ventures, with Equinor taking full ownership of the Empire Wind 1 and 2 projects, and bp assuming full ownership of the Beacon Wind project. Equinor said it is rebidding the 810-megawatt Empire Wind 1 project into New York’s fourth solicitation. 

Like other wind power companies, Equinor is seeking better power payment terms in the face of rising costs.

 The BOEM-approved plan includes construction and operation of two offshore wind facilities, known as Empire Wind 1 and Empire Wind 2. The lease area is located about 12 nautical miles south of Long Island, N.Y., and about 16.9 nm east of Long Branch, N.J.

Planned on federal leases between shipping separation lanes to New York Harbor, Empire Wind was one of the early offshore wind proposals in the New York Bight, meeting skepticism and outright resistance from other maritime interests in those busy waters.

The Empire Wind COP approval heartened offshore wind advocates, as other developers like Ørsted have delayed or cancelled projects, and power supplier Eversource backed out of joint venture  arrangements.

“Already well advanced in planning and development, Empire Wind 1 could deliver first power to New Yorkers by 2026,” according to a statement by Equinor. “In addition, construction to transform the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal into a major hub for offshore wind could begin as early as this spring.” 

 “We are ready to get to work,” said Molly Morris, president of Equinor Renewables Americas. “Today’s COP approval follows years of rigorous review and collaboration with BOEM and other federal agencies. Equinor is grateful for a shared commitment to achieving state and federal offshore wind ambitions and Empire Wind is one step closer to delivering renewable power to hundreds of thousands of New York homes.”  

“This is a milestone for Empire Wind and domestic offshore wind as a whole. When it reaches construction, this project will, over two phases, create thousands of family-sustaining jobs and revitalize the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal,” said Anne Reynolds, the American Clean Power Association’s vice president for offshore wind. “This will be a great development for the New York regional economy and we look forward to the success of this project. We will continue to work closely with the Administration toward a secure, clean energy future.” 

Empire Wind also got received approval from the National Marine Fisheries Service for a permit to do construction work in accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act, requiring observer coverage and precautions to reduce impact on whales, dolphins and turtles. 

A winter 2022-23 surge in humpback whale and dolphin strandings on New Jersey and New York beaches brought charges from wind power opponents that survey work on projects was to blame. BOEM and NMFS insist there is no proof of a link, but the whale strandings continue to be a powerful image in wind power critics’ campaign.