The final blade is attached to a turbine at the South Fork...

The final blade is attached to a turbine at the South Fork Wind Farm off the Rhode Island coast, one of 12 turbines that are to provide power to LIPA. Credit: Orsted

The first offshore wind turbine in federal waters was installed off New England last week, as LIPA and New York State launch a decadeslong transition from fossil-fuel power plants to new green energy.

The turbine, built with help from European ships and equipment, is the first of 12 to be placed off the coast of Rhode Island for the South Fork Wind Farm, set to deliver 130 megawatts of electricity to tens of thousands of residents of the Hamptons and eastern Long Island by year's end or early next year.

The project is located 35 miles east of Montauk Point and connected via a cable at Wainscott, where power will make its way to a LIPA substation in East Hampton.

LIPA in the past has said the $2 billion project will cost average ratepayers about $1.38 cents a month once it's producing power. Turbine foundations were set in place this summer. 

South Fork Wind is being developed for LIPA by a joint-venture partnership between Denmark-based Orsted and New England utility Eversource, at a time of financial and market setbacks for the nascent offshore wind industry.

Orsted recently recorded more than $4 billion in impairment charges — a decline in the value of assets — for its U.S. offshore wind industry, beset by rising costs and interest rates, and nixed two New Jersey projects.

Eversource plans to divest its interests in offshore wind, and is expected to announce a buyer for its 50% interest in its portion of the joint venture in coming weeks.

LIPA has been banking on getting the power from the South Fork Wind Farm since its board first awarded the contract to Deepwater Wind in January 2017. Deepwater was subsequently sold to Orsted. 

New York State is viewing the milestone of the first turbine as a vital starting point for tangible work on its vision of a fully renewable grid by 2040. The state expects to have some 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035, and has awarded contracts for most of that anticipated power, though some remain in question as the developers seek to recoup higher project costs.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, who last week announced an expedited offshore wind proposal request that would allow some who have asked for price increases for their projects to rebid them, in a statement called the first turbine in the water a “momentous occasion.”

“We are not only generating clean energy, but also pioneering a healthy and safe environment for future generations of New Yorkers,” she said. “We are shaping a brighter, greener tomorrow, committed to a future where innovation and sustainability go hand in hand."

LIPA chief Tom Falcone noted the project’s nearly eight-year buildout, but said installation of the first turbine “transforms a vision into a reality. LIPA is proud to have led the way on this landmark project for New York, for our region, and for our customers.” 

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