A federal agency has identified a swath of the South Shore 17 miles off the coast of the Hamptons as a potential area for new offshore wind farms.
If selected, the site would encompass 211,839 acres of ocean waters 15 nautical miles from land, from Center Moriches to Montauk.
After a decade of slow progress in U.S. offshore wind, interest in the waters around Long Island and the Northeast has been heating up in recent years.
LIPA has approved a 90-megawatt project off the coast of Rhode Island, New York State has a plan to inject 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind into the state grid, and Norwegian energy giant Statoil has a lease for more than 70,000 acres 15 miles from Long Beach for an offshore wind farm that could be completed by 2024.
A Dec. 4 presentation by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management says a “call for information and nominations” is about to begin for several large areas off the South Shore for wind farms.
The agency will accept information and site nominations before a 45-day public comment period about the sites. Once the agency formally identifies areas for wind farms, it could be months before a bidding process begins for all, some or possibly none of the sites.
Stephen Boutwell, a spokesman for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said the East End site and three others listed on a map with the presentation were not yet “formal” call areas. The process of identifying those will begin early next year, Boutwell said. No cost estimates have been made.
The agency held an online conference earlier this month to “help inform what will be included in the draft call for information and nominations,” Boutwell said, an “early step in the process to solicit input from stakeholders” to “identify future potential wind-energy areas.”
East Hampton Supervisor Larry Cantwell expressed concern over the prospect of waters off the South Shore becoming available for such an initiative.
“I don’t believe that lining the entire southern coastline of Long Island with a view of windmills from every beach is a good idea,” said Cantwell, a Democrat who said he’s a supporter of offshore wind, including LIPA’s Deepwater Wind project planned for an area 30 miles from Montauk. “My gut reaction is that this is too close.”
He also cautioned against locating turbines in areas that “have a major impact on fisheries.”
Bonnie Brady, director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, said if a wind farm were located off the Hamptons, “we will have no place to fish. I can’t imagine the [U.S. Departments of] Commerce or Interior would approve the huge loss of coastal fishing jobs.”
Boutwell said the proposed area “could change or be reduced in size as the call area and subsequent planning processes unfold.”
Boutwell said the number of turbines, which stand some 450 feet high, “could vary widely depending on turbine size and spacing.”
The federal sites differ from those proposed by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority in October. Since the sites all are in federal waters, a federal plan would trump any state guideline.
The state report identifies more than 1 million acres off from Long island for at least four possible wind-energy farms. Notably, The state report did not propose a site off the Hamptons.
NYSERDA spokeswoman Kate Muller explained: “While BOEM’s draft Call Area encompasses both larger and different areas than what New York proposed to BOEM, we believe our Area for Consideration presents the most benefit for consumers and protecting the environment and the least impact for future offshore wind energy areas.”
The federal call process asks interested parties to specify where they’d like to site a wind farm, and to identify “reasonable sizes.” BOEM ultimately will determine the sites.
BOEM’s presentation says the call areas, including another known as the Great South Bay area due south of that water body, were chosen with input by the state, a regional task force and the public. There also has been at least one unsolicited lease request.