Sunrise Wind expected to be up and running by 2024
By Brandon Allen
Two of the world’s major energy producers, Danish company Ørsted and the U.S.-based provider Eversource, have proposed a joint effort to build New York’s largest wind farm 30 miles off the coast of Montauk.
According to Ørsted and Eversource, the project will produce 880 megawatts of power for New York, and is expected to light more than 500,000 homes. It should also create hundreds of jobs.
Construction of the wind farm is expected to begin in 2022 and be complete by 2024. The construction phase will create roughly 800 jobs, and once the wind farm is up and running, it should add an estimated 100 full-time jobs to the local economy.
The long-term jobs are to be located at a regional operations and maintenace center in Port Jefferson, in Suffolk County, and at an offshore wind training center at Suffolk Community College, with the project promising Long Island a new sector in renewable energy. The project is still in early development, but public officials and activists have been vocal about how the project is expected to affect the Island.
The wind farm could help spur further development of wind energy here, according to activists. “If we’re creating a whole industry and we build it here, then companies promise to create a lot of local jobs,” said George Povall, of the Point Lookout-based renewable energy advocacy group All Our Energy.
Incorporating wind power into New York’s power grid reduces greenhouse emissions, as this renewable energy source does not burn fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas or coal in order to produce energy, and thus does not emit carbon dioxide — the main driver of global warming — into the atmosphere.
As of now, relatively few members of the public are aware of or affected by the Sunrise Wind project, but other offshore wind farms that are further along in development have seen local residents voice opposition, some over the potential disruption to the coastal ecosystem, and others over the effect that infrastructure might have on their communities.
In Wainscott, one proposed wind project, South Fork Wind, has caused some controversy among locals regarding placement of a transmission cable that would deliver energy from the wind farm to the mainland. As of now, the cable is planned to run under Beach Lane in Wainscott, but the Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott group has reservations about the plan, proposing an alternate route that would instead run the cable through Amagansett.
“What CPW wants is a route that goes through Amagansett, and so the community in Amagansett isn’t happy about that,” said Michael Hansen, of South Fork wind power advocacy group Win With WIND.
According to Hofstra graduate sustainability student Antoinette Montes, this is an expected community response. “It’s not uncommon for communities to act this way,” she said. According to Montes, local residents often distrust the developers of large-scale wind projects.
There are now a number of wind farms that have been developed in New York — all land-based farms upstate so far — but there is one nearby offshore wind farm that was completed in December 2016. The Block Island Wind Farm, 3.8 miles off Block Island, R.I., was the first — and remains the only operational — offshore commercial wind farm in the United States. It was intended, in part, as a model project, and produces 30 megawatts of power, enough to light 17,000 homes.
As the Sunrise Wind project continues to develop, a number of elected leaders have thrown their support behind it, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming. Both are Democrats. According to Fleming, compromise among stakeholders is needed to see a project like Sunrise Wind through to fruition.
But, as a coastal community that juts 118 miles into the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island is threatened by climate change, which scientists say is raising sea levels because land-based glacial ice on Greenland and the Antarctic is melting into the oceans. Global warming can also cause stronger, more destructive hurricanes because warmer ocean waters cause larger storms. Reducing carbon emissions is thus critical for the Island.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the sea level around Long Island is estimated to increase 2.35 to 3.9 millimeters per year, a trend that is expected to continue unless carbon emissions are controlled.
“I am in favor of going with 100 percent renewable energy,” said William Doyle, of Montauk. “I feel the benefits considerably outweigh the few things some people see as negatives.”