Imagine a field, not on land but on the open ocean — not of green plants topped with colorful flowers, but of huge, 800-foot towers topped with spinning, white wind blades.
That is what officials from two companies and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority asked Brookhaven Town residents to envision. At a public meeting hosted at Town Hall Sept. 17. Plans are for two offshore wind projects, located off the East End and South Shore of Long Island. Eventually, the wind farms will provide close to 1,700 megawatts of energy to Long Island, powering 1 million homes and generating up 30 percent of New York’s power capacity by 2035, according to NYSERDA officials.
One offshore wind project, Sunrise Wind, a combined venture with U.S.-based Eversource and Denmark-based Ørsted, is of special interest to Brookhaven Town and the Village of Port Jefferson. The companies have announced its intent to use Port Jefferson Harbor as a headquarters and base of operations for not only this upcoming project, but for offshore wind across the Eastern Seaboard.
Ken Bowes, the vice president of offshore wind siting and permitting at Eversource, said they are currently working with local realtors, as suggested to them by Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant. The business is searching for warehouse and office space in the local area. He said they are looking for space in close proximity to the village, though finding a suitable location within the village boundaries will likely be difficult.
He said he expects around 50 full-time employees will work on the vessel the company uses to go out and provide maintenance and service the wind turbines, though they expect the project to supply 100 jobs over the planned 25-year lifespan of the turbines. These employees would stay on the vessel for weeks at a time before arriving back in Port Jeff, and he said the vessel should not interfere with the Port Jeff to Bridgeport ferry.
If the plans pan out, Bowes said its ambitions are for Port Jefferson to be the headquarters for all work done for their company’s wind projects on the Eastern Seaboard, including current projects off Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
“We may look to do this as a service for all of our projects and possibly for others as well,” he said. “We’ll see how that all unfolds.”
Sunrise Wind will encompass 110 wind turbines situated 30 miles off the coast of Montauk, and at full capacity will generate 880MW of electricity. Both projects, which include Empire Wind, are expected to be operational by 2024, according to current timelines.
Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said they are in support of renewable energy projects but said there are numerous questions that still need answered about how the projects will impact people, especially in terms of how it will affect fishing communities and in its cost to the surrounding communities.
“We all need to have clean renewable power — I think it’s more urgent than ever,” he said. “There’s a promise of not only clean power but also a little bit of economic opportunity.”
Some major concerns have come from Long Island fishermen, who have said the planned wind projects could impact their business. Jennifer Garvey, the Long Island development manager at Ørsted, said there is no exclusion area for their project, and fishermen can get as close as they want to the turbines when fishing. Each turbine is planned to be spaced 1-mile apart east to west in a grid-like pattern, which, she said, will aid in navigation and in search and rescue operations.
In addition to the offshore wind projects, both Sunrise Wind and New York State say they plan to invest heavily in college-level training programs for people to work on offshore wind. Doreen Harris, vice president for large-scale renewables at NYSERDA, said the state has already invested around $20 million for an offshore wind training institute through the SUNY system. She described it as a hub-and-spokes model, where colleges and universities such as Stony Brook will contain centers for education and training in harnessing wind energy. For their part, Bowes said Sunrise Wind has already promised invested $10 million for a training program at Suffolk County Community College, though the college has not received any funds yet and details on the program remain sparse. The energy company vice president said they were still hashing out the details, adding more information will be available in the near future.
Bowes said they chose Port Jefferson because of its deepwater harbor and its existing amenities. He also said they chose it due to its currently “underutilized infrastructure,” though when asked if that indicated the
LIPA-owned Port Jefferson Power Station, he declined to say. He did not wish to speak about Sunrise Wind.
“I can say we are looking at sites that would be natural for [the project,]” he said.
The Port Jeff power plant, which recently settled in a tax certiorari agreement with the Town of Brookhaven over its tax assessments, has been running at low percentages for the past several years. It was only 11 percent in 2017, for example. In a previous Port Times article, LIPA said the reduction in taxes may help move the plant toward a clean energy recourse but has not provided more details on what that could entail.
The recently passed state Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act calls for a transition to a carbon-free electric grid for New York by 2040. A LIPA spokesperson previously told TBR News Media the Port Jeff power plant will be more than 70 years old by 2030. LIPA has already decommissioned fossil-fuel power plants in Far Rockaway and Glenwood Landing. LIPA has also said Sunrise Wind is key to transitioning toward the state engineered clean energy milestones.
Adrienne Esposito, director of the environmental advocacy group Citizens Campaign for the Environment said the best-case scenario would be Ørsted and Eversource using the power plant.
“Think about the symbolism of repurposing a fossil fuel plant and transform it to something that will help wind power. How great would that be?”
This story has been amended Sept. 19 to say Sunrise Wind has promised $10 million for SCCC has been promised but not yet received.