A potentially huge economic boost for Port Jefferson, Setauket and the whole North Shore could soon be down the pike as more details of a regional wind-power project takes shape.
Sunrise Wind, a combined venture with U.S.-based Eversource and Denmark-based Ørsted, plans to create a 110-turbine, 880-megawatt wind farm 30 miles off the coast of Montauk. Announced back in 2019, project managers and local officials touted Port Jefferson as the new home base for the project, with offices located nearby and a repair ship to be stationed within the harbor itself.
Things are moving forward in a big way, according to Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), who confirmed in a phone interview that Eversource has landed a new office space, specifically at a 59,525-square-foot office/warehouse located at 22 Research Way in East Setauket.
Romaine, who recently was on a Zoom call with company representatives, said while the front part of the space is likely to be an office, the back portion of the property is to be a training center for the people who will go out on the ship to work on and repair the massive turbines in the ocean. What’s more, since these offshore wind projects are still progressing with an ever-increasing demand for renewable energy, the supervisor suggested such a facility could gain national significance.
“You’re seeing offshore wind energy far more accepted, particularly with this crisis of climate change,” Romaine said. “This is a shot in the arm to the area, and wind energy will benefit the economics of all northern Brookhaven.”
Sunrise Wind reps have previously talked about their plans to work with Suffolk County Community College for a training program, but in response to questions Eversource and Ørsted reps said in a statement they will have more details in the coming weeks about this new property.
“This facility will serve a major role in our plans to make New York a leader in the U.S. offshore wind industry,” the statement read.
What those in the facility would be training for is to go out on a new 260-plus foot service operations vessel. The ship is planned to hold 60 passengers, and then take trained technicians back and forth to take care of the turbines on the basis of two weeks on and two weeks off.
Sunrise Wind is also boasting that the chartered vessel is Jones Act compliant, a law that mandates new ships be manufactured in the U.S. The point, company reps said in an email to Romaine, is that offshore wind projects “can drive domestic jobs, manufacturing and investment growth.”
Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant said she has a meeting scheduled with Sunrise Wind representatives Thursday, but that the idea of the area becoming a nationally recognized hub for such technology would be a “home run.”
To help operate this vessel, Eversource and Ørsted reps have previously stated they would come into Port Jefferson Harbor for a 24-hour period in order to take on crew and resupply.
The Town of Brookhaven has also sent a letter of support for both the facility improvements in Port Jefferson Harbor. In a letter to Doreen Harris, the acting president of the state Energy Research and Development Authority, Romaine supported the Ørsted/Eversource grant application for a custom pier in Port Jeff Harbor in connection with NYSERDA’s 2020 Offshore Wind Solicitation.
“The arrival of the [Service Operation Vessel] in the harbor, together with the use of the training facility both inland and on the pier, would bring a unique spectacle and new commerce to the area that will have positive ripple effects throughout the community,” Romaine wrote in the letter dated Oct. 7.
Garant said there are multiple benefits for some kind of update to the pier, which is owned by the town. Such improvements could also, in effect, make the Port Jeff power plant property more valuable, something village officials have been aggressively arguing with the Long Island Power Authority, which buys the plants power under contract with plant owners National Grid.
She said project managers of Sunrise Wind have already done work to try and minimize the impact to the surrounding community, as the vessel will only be offloading people and resources once every two weeks.
“It’s a win-win for so many reasons: Our harbor is being utilized, and wind power is where I think we have to go on a global national scale,” the mayor said.
The project was originally slated to finish in 2024, but company reps have experienced some degree of opposition from those on the South Fork regarding, among other things, where the company can place the high-voltage cables. Instead of having the cables come in through that area, Romaine has proposed the cables come in at Smith Point, come up through Shirley and north up William Floyd Parkway. The town, he said, wouldn’t have the same hiccups as the South Fork had since major cables already run underneath the length of William Floyd, and there are existing buildings that Sunrise Wind can use as substations.
Negotiations are still ongoing, though the Brookhaven supervisor said there will be a hosting fee that will go toward benefiting the local community.
This version of the article corrects the ownership of the Port Jefferson power plant and adds information of the letter Romaine sent to NYSERDA.