The South Fork Wind Farm, projected to be the first federally permitted offshore wind farm operating in the country by year's end, is still awaiting arrival of a European vessel to complete construction, though its developer declined to say whether that would impact the completion schedule.
Offshore foundations for the 12-turbine wind farm in the waters off Rhode Island are already set in the water, and developers Orsted and Eversource have completed onshore and offshore cabling work. Now, they say, they are waiting for a vessel from Europe to arrive to begin final construction of the towers, turbines and blades.
The 130-megawatt wind farm is estimated to power up to 70,000 homes, mostly on the East End. Offshore wind is the centerpiece of New York State's, and the federal government's, efforts to transition from fossil fuels to green energy over the next 20 years. Environmentalists say it's needed now, but many commercial fishermen oppose the turbines out of concern for lost fishing grounds and other potential impacts.
In written responses to Newsday on Monday, Orsted's head of market strategy, Jennifer Garvey, called the schedule for completing the project “dynamic.”
“Like all complex construction projects — especially those at-sea — South Fork Wind’s construction schedule is dynamic and dependent on a number factors, predominantly weather,” Garvey wrote. “We’re continuously optimizing our schedule with those factors in mind.”
Garvey said the turbine installation vessel needed to put towers, turbines and blades in place was "initially delayed on another project in Europe, but is now expected to arrive at the offshore site in late October.”
Meanwhile, she wrote, transport barges are “set to arrive next week to later bring the turbine towers, blades and nacelles out to the offshore site.”
Asked if the December energy-production schedule was still possible, Garvey wrote there were “no changes to the overall schedule at this time. But as we say, the schedule is dynamic and based on a lot of factors … weather being a key factor.”
The company, she wrote, is “making progress toward delivering power to the local grid in 2023."
Orsted this summer saw its stock price plummet after it disclosed it would take "impairment" charges — reductions in the value of assets — of up to $2.3 billion tied to three other proposed U.S. offshore wind projects, including Sunrise Wind for Long Island.
At the time, Orsted chief executive Mads Nipper broached the possibility that the company could decide not to pursue projects if pending "final investment decisions" prove unfeasible. "… if the walkaway scenario is an economical, rational decision for us, then this remains a real scenario for us, as an alternative to actually taking the final investment decision" and completing the projects, Nipper said. Those decisions are pending later this year or early next.
In a separate announcement earlier this year, South Fork 50-50 project partner Eversource said it was attempting to sell its interest in the wind-farm projects it owns with Orsted, a Denmark energy conglomerate that is the world's largest offshore wind developer but also has vast holdings in oil and gas.
The South Fork Wind Farm, under an existing long-term contract to LIPA, is on a different track than Orsted's three larger proposals, and is nearing completion. It was not among those listed by Orsted in a state filing earlier this year requesting that New York State allow their already inked contracts to be adjustable to account for inflation, interest rate increases and higher material costs. The company is also seeking larger federal subsidies for the 30% investment tax credit for offshore wind, with up to 20% additional subsidies for using U.S. steel and locating infrastructure location.