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Long IslandPolitics

Wind energy project off LI to be called Empire Wind

Statoil's Sheringham Shoal wind farm in the North

Statoil's Sheringham Shoal wind farm in the North Sea. The Empire Wind project off Long Island is its first wind lease in the United States. Photo Credit: Statoil / Alan O’Neill

The developer is Norwegian, but the name of the first wind-energy array off Long Island’s South Shore will be distinctly New York: Empire Wind.

Officials from developer Statoil are in New York this week to attend a wind-industry event in Manhattan and on Tuesday will announce the name of the project. Empire Wind was chosen, they say, to reflect the location.

“We wanted to find something that’s associated with New York, to make it local,” said Christer af Geijerstam, who was recently named Statoil’s project director of Empire Wind. A website, www.empirewind.com, will go live later this week.

Statoil, which is two-thirds owned by the Norwegian government, won the bidding to develop 79,000 acres of ocean off Long Island through a federal auction in December 2016. Statoil’s bid was $42.5 million, besting New York State, the second-final bidder.

Geijerstam indicated that Statoil has ambitions beyond the Empire Wind project. New York State this month identified more than 1 million acres of offshore waters for future wind arrays for at least four additional wind farms beyond the Statoil project. “It’s fair to say Statoil has the northeast of the U.S. as a priority area and we’ll be looking at ways to increase our efforts and engagements in this area,” he said.

For Empire Wind, the tentative plan is to erect 80 to 100 turbines 14 miles south of Long Beach and extending south-eastward. The project would produce up to 1,000 megawatts of energy, enough to power hundreds of thousands of homes, but Geijerstam noted production will be based on contracts the company negotiates with the state or power companies.

“At this stage we’ll keep all options open” in terms of the size, he said.

More immediately, Geijerstam said, “we are going to survey our site,” making detailed maps of the sea bottom that will accommodate the turbines. He noted that extensive surveys voluntarily conducted by New York State will be used to some extent. “The requirement is a bit more detailed than what was done.”

Statoil recently completed the first floating platform for wind turbines in Scotland, but Geijerstam said those are designed for much deeper waters and won’t be used on the Empire Wind project.

The Long Island Commercial Fishing Association has joined a pending lawsuit to block the project, fearing the loss of essential squid and scallop grounds.

The reason, said Bonnie Brady, the association’s executive director, is because federal regulators “never took into account historical fishing grounds before they gave away this piece of property,” which contains active squid, scallop and other fisheries.

LIPA has already contracted for a 90-megawatt wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island, between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard, requiring a 50-mile connection to supply power primarily to the East End. LIPA hopes that project, by Deepwater Wind, will be completed by the end of 2022. Deepwater developed the nation’s first offshore wind farm off Block Island, a five-turbine project.

The Statoil project will require more than 20 federal and state permits before it can even begin to move toward construction, in 2021. Statoil expects it to be operational by 2024.

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