The Washington Post

Biden administra­tion approves offshore wind farm supplying power to N.Y.

Project to generate about 130 megawatts of power for 70,000 homes

- BY DINO GRANDONI dino.grandoni@washpost.com

President Biden’s administra­tion greenlit a major offshore wind project to supply power to New York, arriving as part of a broader push to build out renewable energy and tackle climate change.

The federal government’s approval Wednesday of a dozen wind turbines, located off the coast of Rhode Island, will send power to the eastern end of Long Island. The move inches the country closer to the Biden administra­tion’s goal of generating 30 gigawatts of power from offshore wind energy by the end of the decade. Harnessing the Atlantic’s fierce winds is prominent in the president’s plan to wean the U.S. power sector off fossil fuels, which are dangerousl­y warming the planet.

But the Biden administra­tion still faces stiff head winds ahead of meeting its clean energy goals. The effort to dot the East Coast with towering turbines has at times put advocates at odds with coastal homeowners worried about spoiled seaside views; fishermen concerned about the impact on their catch; and conservati­onists concerned about the impact on endangered whales.

At the moment, only seven commercial turbines — five in Rhode Island and two in Virginia — are up and spinning. Europe, by contrast, has already deployed over 5,000 offshore turbines.

The South Fork Wind project, located about 19 miles off Block Island, R.I. and 35 miles east of Long Island, promises to generate about 130 megawatts of power once complete, enough to supply electricit­y to about 70,000 homes. Constructi­on on an undergroun­d transmissi­on line could begin as soon as January, with operations set to start at the end of 2023.

Though closer to Rhode Island, the project will be the first wind farm to provide power to New York, a state with the significan­t climate ambition of getting all of its power from carbon-free sources by 2040. The announceme­nt issuing a “record of decision” from the Interior and Commerce department­s drew praise from the state’s Democratic leaders.

“The offshore wind industry will create thousands of union jobs, reduce air pollution, and combat climate change — the greatest existentia­l threat facing our communitie­s on Long Island,” said Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), who represents a district on Long Island.

The wind project is a joint venture of Orsted, a Danish energy giant, and Eversource, a U.S. firm supplying power in New England. The companies still need to receive permits from the Environmen­tal Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other regulators to move forward with work off Rhode Island.

Democratic officials hope the offshore wind expansion is a boon for unions in particular. Orsted is working with a coalition of constructi­on trade unions to hire their workers when possible, though the turbines themselves will be made overseas by the European firm Siemens Gamesa.

This is the second offshore wind project in federal waters approved under Biden. Last week, developers and dignitarie­s broke ground in Massachuse­tts on the first — the Vineyard Wind project near Martha’s Vineyard — where waterfront property owners had long fought offshore wind developmen­t.

With wind farms proposed from New England to the Carolinas, the Biden administra­tion is planning to review at least 16 other commercial offshore wind energy plans by 2025. The approval process on several of those projects stalled under President Donald Trump, who often criticized wind blades for striking and killing birds.

The announceme­nt comes as Biden tours the country to promote his recently passed infrastruc­ture bill. But a second bill with big financial incentives for erecting wind turbines, installing solar panels and buying electric vehicles is still winding its way through Congress.

That budget bill passed the House earlier this month but faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.VA.) has expressed skepticism toward several of its clean energy provisions.

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