An illustration of a wind turbine installation vessel for the Empire Wind projects.

An illustration of a wind turbine installation vessel for the Empire Wind projects. Credit: Maersk Supply Service

The federal government on Thursday gave its final approval for the construction and operation plan for the Empire Wind projects, which envision turbines starting at 12 miles off the South Shore at Long Beach.

The approval comes at a tumultuous time for the project — and for the United States offshore wind industry — as developers abandon some projects, take billions in impairment charges and focus their resources on economically viable plans.

Empire Wind developer Equinor, of Norway, earlier this year announced a breakup of sorts with its partner developer BP, in which Equinor took over the Empire projects, while BP took on their Beacon Wind projects off the Rhode Island/Massachusetts shore.

Equinor has rebid the Empire 1 project, which will deliver its energy from turbines 12 miles off the coast to the New York City grid at a Brooklyn substation, in an expedited procurement process by the state that would allow for some increased costs of wind development and financing. Winning bidders are expected before month's end.

Equinor announced earlier this year it had canceled a previously awarded contract for Empire Wind 2, which would have stood some 20 miles off Long Island and delivered its energy to the Long Island grid in Nassau. Equinor had sought pricing concessions from the state to allow for accelerating costs of the project in its original bid awarded in 2019, but the Public Service Commission rejected the requests. The company has suggested it could rebid the project in the future.

“We’re continuing with the reset of the Empire Wind 2 project,” Equinor said in a statement. “We are committed to the lease area and will continue to mature Empire Wind 2 in anticipation of future solicitations.”

Thousands of Long Beach residents have raised questions about the Empire 2 project’s plan to run power cables through city streets to a substation on the water in Oceanside. Gov. Kathy Hochul last year vetoed a bill that would have cleared a path for that project.

The Biden administration, in announcing the approval for the project’s construction plan to move forward, did not mention the problems facing the industry. In a statement Thursday, Elizabeth Klein, director of the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is administering the federal leasing of offshore wind, said the Empire project “represents a major milestone in our efforts to expand clean energy production and combat climate change.” 

The plan approved by the federal agency includes construction and operation of both Empire 1 and 2, which would have a combined capacity of just over 2,000 megawatts, enough to power more than 700,000 homes, BOEM said.

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