South Fork project plans, court proceedings delayed due to COVID-19

Wind Farm Flop?




The owners of South Fork Wind Farm admitted this week the project is not on schedule. It was originally designed to provide power in 2022, which would be used to ease a peak power shortage sometimes experienced on hot summer weekends.

“South Fork Wind will very likely be delayed due to federal permitting approval delays and COVID-19, which has impacted our ability to carry out key surveys both on and offshore,” said Meaghan Wims, a spokeswoman for Deepwater parent companies Ørsted and Eversource Energy.

A New York State Public Service review, called an Article VII, has also been postponed because of the novel coronavirus.

“We anticipate a formal update from the federal government on our permitting timeline,” Wims said, “which will inform our project schedule.”

The federal review of the project has stalled until the company can satisfactorily address Bureau of Ocean Energy Management concerns to determine how it may affect the commercial fishing and shipping industries.

Another obstacle is financing. Ørsted, which bought Rhode Island-based Deepwater Wind, then sold half its company to Eversource Energy, intends to use federal tax credits to help finance offshore projects planned for the New England corridor, including the South Fork Wind Farm. But tax subsidies for wind energy are also drying up. The massive outlay of COVID-19-related stimulus money makes Washington D.C. lawmakers hesitant to fund new sources of energy. Wims said the company does not comment on its financial affairs.

Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott, Inc. is also pressuring the companies, who want to use Beach Lane in Wainscott as a landing site for its offshore cable. The group threatened litigation to stop the cable that would have to hook up with a PSEG plant once ashore. There’s plenty of speculation the utility company is preparing for that to happen elsewhere on the East End should the citizens group prevail in court. But the utility remains steadfast in its commitment to the wind energy industry and its projects with Ørsted.

“The South Fork Wind Farm is in an advanced stage of development,” said Long Island Power Authority Director of Communications Sid Nathan. “We remain committed to ensuring the project is completed to benefit Long Island and the South Fork with a cleaner, more cost-effective and resilient source of energy that meets the increased consumer demand.”

The Wainscott group demanded in court detailed plans the utility may have drawn up for an alternate site, including online diagrams, sources of supply, interconnection, transformation, and voltage levels for the substations and related transmission facilities. It also requested LIPA indicate the voltage level, age, and conductor type and size of the circuit, which runs along the Long Island Rail Road between the Amagansett and East Hampton substations. Chief Administrative Judge Anthony Belsito sided with PSEG.

“The request is overbroad in that it is not possible to identify with specificity the information Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott wants provided in order to determine its relevance or xlikelihood for leading to relevant information,” he said. The group’s “motion to compel PSEG to provide system diagrams for all the substations within the eastern part of Long Island is denied.”

The group intends to pare down the amount of material requested and resubmit.

rmurphy@indyeastend.com