An underground cable that would link a proposed South Fork wind farm to the power grid has been approved by the state, a decision lauded by supporters as a key step toward starting New York’s first offshore wind farm.
Deepwater Wind South Fork is seeking to build a 15-turbine, 130 megawatt wind farm 35 miles off the Montauk coast and connect it to an East Hampton power substation through an underground cable.
The state Public Service Commission on Thursday approved the developer’s application — which included signatures from several state agencies, East Hampton Town, environmental groups and other stakeholders — to construct the 7.6 miles of cable.
Wind energy is seen as a critical part of New York's climate initiative, which has a stated goal of some 9,000 megawatts of wind power by 2035. In January the state announced two offshore wind contracts with energy giant Equinor totaling nearly 2,500 megawatt output as part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's plan for a post-COVID-19 green economy.
"When people say it's never been done before, New York shows them how to get it done, and this transmission power line — the first of its kind in the state — will showcase what the future of energy will look like," Cuomo said in a news release Thursday. "Offshore wind is a critical component of our ambitious green energy vision, and this plan holds the blueprint that will move us a step closer to making this vision a reality."
The South Fork proposal has met fierce opposition from the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association over the loss of fishing grounds. And a group of Wainscott residents known as the Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott object to having the cable run under their neighborhood.
Critics have also said that power from the South Fork wind farm will cost more than other newer and much larger wind farm contracts awarded by the state.
State officials said the application had been thoroughly vetted.
"With this decision, we demonstrate the clear need for the project while avoiding or minimizing adverse environmental impacts," Public Service Commission chairman John B. Howard said in a statement.
In January, East Hampton Town approved an agreement allowing the developer to run the cable under a Wainscott beach and town roads in exchange for a $28.9 million community benefits package.
The Wainscott neighborhood group, in a statement, said it was disappointed with the state’s decision to approve the cable route in their community rather than consider alternatives like Hither Hills State Park.
"In the rush to be ‘first,’ this route has been pushed through the ‘approval’ process on an accelerated basis with indifference to whether the developers used the best available route," the statement read. They added the group is reviewing its legal options.
The project, to be built in federal waters, still requires federal permits to proceed before coming online in 2023.