Illustration of the wind installation vessel (WIV). Norway-based Equinor’s Empire...

Illustration of the wind installation vessel (WIV). Norway-based Equinor’s Empire Wind 2 project would be based more than 20 miles from the South Shore from Long Beach to points east and south. Credit: Maersk Supply Service

The developers of two offshore wind farms set to serve Long Island and the state customers announced $25 million in grants Thursday to fund wildlife and fisheries research for the region as their projects move closer to construction and production.

Equinor and bp, which together are developing the Empire Wind projects off Long Island and Beacon Wind off the New England coast, said they have selected two regional nonprofit agencies to help administer the two $12.5 million grants, which are aimed at increasing the regional understanding of wind farms on wildlife and fisheries.

The grants will be administered by the Regional Wildlife Science Collaborative for Offshore Wind and the Responsible Offshore Science Alliance. Equinor officials said both have experience in working with experts and agencies to spearhead and guide the research. The nonprofits will contract the research work out to third-parties via requests for proposals, said Scott Lundin, vice president of permitting and community affairs for Equinor U.S., whose parent is based in Norway.

“As part of this effort, we will encourage Long Island’s scientific and research community to put forward proposals to participate in an effort that furthers our commitment to responsible stewardship of the environment and at the end of the day helps us do our jobs right," Equinor said in a statement.

Solicitations for the work are expected to be issued later this year, and contracts awarded in 2024.

Molly S. Morris, president of Equinor Wind U.S., said the company will leave the parameters of the study up to the groups, which include fishing interests and wildlife conservationists. “We don’t prejudge the science.”

The two agencies will “support research and monitoring activities” that will produce data and reports that will be publicly available, Equinor said. Lundin said the research is outside of that required by state and federal regulators as part of the approval process for the wind farms, which in the case of the grants are for Empire Wind 2 and Beacon Wind, which is set to connect to the grid in Astoria. The two projects together will produce about 2,490 megawatts of energy, enough to power hundreds of thousands of homes.

The two Empire Wind projects, to be located starting at 15 miles off the Long Beach shore, will see more than 100 turbines at a height of nearly 1,000 feet over the next half decade.

Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, an industry group, said working with local commercial fishermen to help guide and conduct the research is essential to ensure its independence. She said trusted agencies such as the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Marine program are also essential to ensure fishing groups trust the end product. 

Lundin noted that commercial fishing leaders comprise half the board of the Responsible Offshore Science Alliance.

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