The Long Island Power Authority is expected this week to officially accept a proposal to construct the nation’s first major offshore wind farm in the waters off Block Island to supply energy to the South Fork. The proposal calls for 15 wind turbines, each standing some 600 feet in height, to be constructed 15 miles south of Block Island and about 30 miles southeast of Montauk. They would generate some 90 megawatts of energy annually, enough to power about 50,000 homes. Early drafts of the project called for the supply lines to come ashore somewhere near Hampton Bays.
It’s the first wind-generated energy proposal that LIPA has accepted as part of its stated goal to add 280 megawatts of renewable energy to its supply grid.
The collection of turbines would be built by Rhode Island-based company Deepwater Wind, which owns the leasing rights to more than 250-square miles of Atlantic Ocean waters and sea floor south of Block Island. The company has said the area, which it calls Deepwater One, could ultimately be home to as many as 200 turbines, producing more than 1,000 megawatts of power, if it is fully developed. The company is calling the project the South Fork Wind Farm.
“New York is boldly leading the way on a clean-energy revolution that will transform the nation’s energy future,” said Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski in a statement following the LIPA announcement. “Our project is not just the best site for offshore wind in the country, it’s also the right solution to meet the South Fork’s energy demands in a clean and cost-effective way. There’s real momentum for offshore wind in the United States, and Long Islanders are leading the charge.”
Deepwater Wind has already constructed five turbines four miles off the Block Island shoreline as a pilot project that is expected to supply most of the island’s power when it comes on line later this year.
In 2014, LIPA rejected a proposal from Deepwater Wind for 35 turbines in the same region in the first round of renewable energy projects it accepted, choosing instead to focus on a number of solar projects. It also shelved its own plans for 40 turbines in the Atlantic off Jones Beach. The announcement last week that Long Island’s sole energy provider would finally embrace offshore wind turbines in the Atlantic was hailed by environmental advocates.
“Our transition from fossil fuels to renewables has just [taken] a giant leap forward with this historic decision,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, in a joint statement from a group of environmental organizations. “This is a game changer, a legacy that all New Yorkers will be proud of.”
Deepwater Wind has not said how much it expects the project to cost but it would likely be in excess of $200 million in construction costs, according to cost projections for other similar projects.
A spokesperson for Deepwater, Meaghan Whims, said that the first step after the project is officially approved will be to begin negotiating the terms of the contract for the purchase of power from the 15 turbines and start logistical planning of the construction and permit applications.
Ms. Whims said that if all goes smoothly, construction of the turbines could begin in 2019 and the system could be operational by 2022.
LIPA’s board of directors was scheduled to officially vote to approve the project on Wednesday.