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Long Island suppliers, unions seek lift from wind-power

Wind power development off Long Island is being

Wind power development off Long Island is being presented an an opportunity for local business and unions. These wind turbines are in the North Sea off the English coast. Credit: Bloomberg Creative/Bloomberg Creative Photos

With offshore wind power projects on the horizon, Long Island manufacturers and unions are angling for a role in the emerging industry.

"We want everyone to benefit from this," including business, environmental and organized labor constituencies, said Rep. Thomas R. Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who organized a wind-power conference on Friday to bring local suppliers into the mix.

As climate change leads to drought, fires and floods, he said, the transition to carbon-free energy production is urgent, he said. "This is real life and death."

One of the panelists, Siri Espedel Kindem, president of Equinor Wind US, a unit of Stavanger, Norway-based Equinor ASA, said that regional subcontractors have a wide range of opportunities such as construction, transportation and cable fabrication.

"It's not all about the wind turbines," she said, "but also the infrastructure that has to be built."

Panelist Ross Gould, vice president for supply chain development at the nonprofit Business Network for Offshore Wind, said the 8,000 components that go into an offshore wind turbine provide ample opportunity for suppliers.

Tom Montalbine, president of Roman Stone Construction in Bay Shore, a manufacturer of concrete products for infrastructure, sees wind power as an attractive market.

"We're looking to get a piece of this," he said at the conference held at LIU Post's Tilles Center for the Performing Arts.

New York has five offshore wind projects in active development, according to the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency.

Empire Wind, an 819-megawatt installation by Equinor and partner BP about 14 miles off Jones Beach, is expected to begin commercial operation in 2024.

Empire Wind 2, a 1,260-megawatt installation nearby, also is under development by Equinor, with commercial operation expected in 2026.

NYSERDA also chose Equinor for a third contract, Beacon Wind, a 1,230 megawatt project 60 miles off Montauk Point.

The state agency estimates Beacon Wind and Empire Wind 2 will produce more than 5,200 "direct" jobs and total economic activity worth $8.9 billion in statewide labor, supplies, development and manufacturing.

Offshore wind power projects have faced criticism from the commercial fishing industry, which has voiced concerns about safety and maritime congestion in prime fishing lanes.

But panelist Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said that wind power faces political pushback at a time when development should be accelerating.

"The naysayers are coming out" despite evidence of climate change such as droughts, fires, floods and ocean acidification, she said. "We need to put our finger on the fast-forward button."

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