The South Fork Wind energy project located 35 miles east of Montauk, N.Y., won final approval yesterday to begin construction, lining it up to be the second offshore wind turbine array in federal waters.

The federal Bureau of Offshore Energy Management signed off on the construction and operations plan for South Fork, setting out a one-nautical mile spacing between a dozen 11-megawatt Siemens-Gamesa turbines and some areas set aside in the federal lease area to preserve bottom habitat for marine species.

Installing monopile foundations and turbines is scheduled for summer 2023. The 132-MW project by developers Ørsted and Eversource is seen as a keystone by New York state energy planners for bringing future power to Long Island – potentially for 70,000 homes by the end of 2023 – as they look to even bigger projects offshore to feed the New York City metro area.

“This milestone underscores the tremendous opportunity we have to create a new industry from the ground up to drive our green energy economy, deliver clean power to millions of homes and create good jobs across the state,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement after the BOEM approval. “As we tackle climate change head on and transition to a clean economy, these are the projects that will power our future.”

BOEM and wind developers continue to face fierce resistance from the Northeast commercial fishing industry. In December the Texas Public Policy Institute filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of fishermen in New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, charging that BOEM bypassed requirements for environmental review when it approved the construction and operations plan for Vineyard Wind, the first wind project in federal waters to be built east of the South Fork tract.

Offshore wind advocates are stressing economic effects from South Fork going forward, like a recent agreement between the developers and the Long Island company Haugland Energy Group LLC to build part of the onshore transmission system that will create more than 100 jobs. That work includes installing a duct bank system for the project’s underground onshore transmission line and leading construction of the onshore interconnection in East Hampton, N.Y.

Nationally the project is drawing export transmission cables manufactured in South Carolina, an offshore substation under construction by Kiewit Offshore Services, Ltd. in Texas, and a 260' wind service operations vessel, the first U.S.-flag vessel of its type, being built by offshore services operator Edison Chouest.

Edison Chouest SOV
Edison Chouest Offshore will build a 260' service operations vessel for Northeast offshore wind turbine projects. ECO image.

“While local labor will be instrumental in construction and operations, the South Fork project shows how a singular offshore wind project creates hundreds of well-paying jobs across the nation as manufacturing and logistics supply chains stretch deep into the U.S.,” said Ross Gould, vice president of supply chain development at the Business Network for Offshore Wind. “This localization of a supply chain is critical and must be better supported by policymakers to ensure projects move forward consistently and economic benefits are captured domestically.”

David Hardy, CEO of Ørsted Offshore North America, said, “South Fork Wind is already contributing to a new statewide and U.S. manufacturing era and maritime industry, including good-paying union jobs through our labor partnerships and vision for the industry.”

New York’s offshore wind backers include an alliance of state energy planners, environmental groups, and the state’s politically powerful organized labor.

"With this historic announcement, we have the green light to start construction on New York's first offshore wind project,” said Mariah Dignan, Long Island regional director for the Climate Jobs NY & Climate Jobs NY Education Fund. “Thanks to years of thorough planning and engagement by Ørsted/Eversource with labor, environmental groups, and local community members, we will create hundreds of good union jobs while bringing new zero-emission energy to Long Islanders.”

“Today's approval of the construction and operations plan for Ørsted and Eversource firmly anchors organized labor to an entirely new offshore wind industry,” said Matthew Aracich, president of the  Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk Counties, AFL-CIO. “The members of the building trades are eager to embark on this new career path and play an integral part in bringing this monumental project to completion.”

Ørsted and Eversource say South Fork “will be built under industry leading project labor agreements and specific partnerships with local union organizations, ensuring local union labor’s participation in all phases of construction on the project. Site preparation and onshore activities for the project’s underground duct bank system and interconnection facility will be the first to begin, and will source construction labor from local union hiring halls.”

Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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