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Feds to start environmental review for wind farm off South Shore

A rendering of a proposed Equinor wind-farm assembly

A rendering of a proposed Equinor wind-farm assembly facility in Brooklyn.  Credit: Equinor

The Biden administration on Thursday said it will begin an environmental review of the construction and operation plan for a massive offshore wind farm project off Long Island’s South Shore.

The federal review of the Empire Wind project by Norway-based Equinor is an important step in the construction and operation of 174 turbines 15 miles from the South Shore. Equinor was awarded its first state contract in 2019 to supply 816 megawatts of power to the state grid, connecting in Brooklyn. A second contract for 1,260 megawatts was awarded in January.

The federal review of Equinor's construction and operations plan, expected to be published Friday, incorporates the two projects the company was awarded by New York State. The company plans to work on the projects in succession through 2027.

The federal announcement about Empire Wind said the project will include two offshore substations, two offshore electric cable routes, up to three cable landfall sites, up to three onshore electric cable routes and two onshore substations. Specifics on the cable routes and landing sites weren't provided. A substation converts power from a generator such as a wind turbine to electricity that is usable on the grid.

Equinor, in response to Newsday questions, said the turbines will be more than 951 feet tall, to the tip of the blades. (The Chrysler Building in Manhattan is 1,046 feet tall). The two offshore substations will collect the power to cables to be sent ashore, where they will land at several different possible points in the Long Beach/Hempstead Town area, and in Brooklyn, respectively.

The Long Beach cable will make its way to a new Equinor substation, then continue on new cables to an existing LIPA substation in the Island Park/Oceanside area for connection to the LIPA grid. The Brooklyn cable will eventually make its way to a Con Edison substation in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Equinor said.

The combined project will produce more than 2,000 megawatts, enough to power at least 1 million homes, Equinor said.

"We will continue to closely engage with federal officials, state regulators and a wide range of interested stakeholders as we work together in completing one of the largest offshore wind projects in the United States," Siri Espedal Kindem, president, Equinor Wind US, said in a statement.

The turbines will be visible from Long Island, officials have said,

and would be as near as 17 nautical miles from New Jersey.

Equinor has received state contract awards for three separate projects from New York State, for more than 3,300 megawatts of wind power. The Empire Wind I project was followed by two awards in January. Empire Wind 2 will also be located directly south of Empire Wind 1 in the waters off Long Island known as the New York Bight, where Equinor has an 80,000-acre water lease from the federal government. Equinor is also developing a project known as Beacon Wind to produce 1,230 megawatts from a separate lease off the coast of Massachusetts, which will also provide energy for New York, connecting with a more than 100-mile undersea cable.

Commercial fishing groups have objected to turbines in large parts of that region, saying it's essential scallop, squid and other fishing grounds.

As part of the environmental review, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will publish a notice of intent to begin its environmental review on Friday, and conduct three virtual public "scoping" meetings for the review on June 30, July 8 and July 13.

Registration for the meetings can be found here: https://www.boem.gov/Empire-Wind-Scoping-Virtual-Meetings

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