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Decades after Europe, turning blades send first commercial offshore wind power onto US grid

Posted on December 10, 2023

NEW LONDON, Conn. — (AP) — Despite some recent financial setbacks, U.S. offshore windpower has hit a milestone. An 800-foot tall turbine is now sending electricity onto the grid from a commercial-scale offshore wind farm on pace to be the country’s first.

The moment is years in the making and at the same time a modest advance in what experts say needs to be a major buildout of this type of clean electricity to address climate change.

Danish wind energy developer Ørsted and the utility Eversource announced Wednesday the first electricity from what will be a 12-turbine wind farm called South Fork Wind 35 miles (56 kilometers) east of Montauk Point, New York. It will be New York’s first offshore wind farm.

Ørsted and Eversource met Wednesday with New York officials to celebrate this “first power” milestone, in East Hampton, New York, where the wind farm connects to the onshore electric grid. They say the achievement builds a foundation for other large U.S. offshore wind farms that will follow.

So far, two of the 11-megawatt turbines are up. The second is undergoing testing, then it can begin producing power too. When the other ten are spinning and South Fork opens by early next year, it will be able to generate 132 megawatts of offshore wind energy to power more than 70,000 homes.

The first power announcement is “an incredible moment in the American clean energy story,” said Stephanie McClellan, executive director of the nonprofit Turn Forward, which advocates for offshore wind. She said South Fork will be a source of clean, reliable, domestically-produced energy.

“This is just the beginning of what offshore wind can do,” she said in a statement.

Offshore wind is central to New York’s plan to transition to a carbon-free electricity system by 2040. The state aims to install 9 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2035.

“New York’s nation-leading efforts to generate reliable, renewable clean energy have reached a major milestone,” New York Gov. Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement Wednesday. “South Fork Wind will power thousands of homes, create good-paying union jobs and demonstrate to all that offshore wind is a viable resource New York can harness for generations to come.”

Some Long Island residents at first objected on both environmental and aesthetic grounds to the transmission line running through their community. In a lawsuit, four alleged that trenching under roads would spread contaminated groundwater. A judge dismissed their complaint in July.

The project has also overcome objections from fishermen and some environmentalists. Fishermen said they were not adequately compensated for their loss of fishing grounds. The group Save The Bay said the energy project shouldn’t be placed near such a rich diversity of fish.


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