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Suffolk Closeup: East End leads in wind power

“We celebrated ‘First Power’ today when the first wind turbine, 35 miles off the Montauk coast, was turned on and began transmitting electricity to the Cove Hollow substation,” declared Judith Hope in an emailed message as the first turbine in the South Fork Wind Farm began producing electricity this month and feeding it into the Long Island Power Authority’s Cove Hollow substation in East Hampton.

Hope, a former East Hampton Town supervisor and the founder of Win With Wind, an East Hampton-based group that has been crusading for offshore wind energy, continued: “Eleven more turbines are on the way and together they will provide electric power to 70,000 South Fork homes. It was so satisfying to come home tonight and to hit the light switch knowing that it is even partially fueled by offshore wind. Very soon, the South Fork Wind Farm will be entirely powering our homes. Happy Holidays!”

There were many celebrating South Fork Wind Farm going into operation on Dec. 7 and becoming the first “utility-scale” offshore wind farm in the United States. Earlier, a wind project with five smaller turbines began operating off Block Island.

“New York’s nation-leading efforts to generate clean energy have reached a major milestone,” said New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D). She said the cluster of the dozen South Fork Wind Farm turbines would “demonstrate to all that offshore wind is a viable resource New York can harness for generations to come.”

Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, also based in East Hampton, noted that his organization “has been working alongside” LIPA, East Hampton town government, and Orsted, the Danish company that is the world leader in offshore wind and built the South Fork Wind Farm in partnership with New England-based Eversource, and also, he said, “many other stakeholders.” He added: “It’s great to know that homes are now using clean, renewable energy, immediately reducing our carbon emissions.”

“Today is an important step in meeting New York State’s renewable energy goals and providing Long Islanders with lower cost, reliable clean power,” said State Senator Anthony Palumbo (R – New Suffolk).

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. (D – Sag Harbor) said: “There can be no doubt anymore that climate change is real ….New York State has been a leader in policy innovation attacking climate change. The enactment of the New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which I co-sponsored, established aggressive goals to substantially reduce carbon emissions by 2050 by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, like wind power. This project marks a significant first step toward reaching our climate goals.”

And Matt Cohen, president of the Long Island Association, said: “Long Island has made history and is officially the offshore wind capital of the country.”

All of the South Fork Wind Farm’s turbines are to be in operation early next year.

New York State has contracts with developers of more wind farms in the Atlantic, all to be bigger than the South Fork Wind Farm. One is Sunrise Wind involving 84 turbines with its transmission line to go to the county’s Smith Point Park in Shirley and extend 17 miles to LIPA’s electric substation in Holbrook.

But there are financial problems being encountered involving “several” offshore wind projects planned for “the Atlantic Ocean from Maine to Virginia,” reported The New York Times last week.

It said “executives miscalculated the impact that the pandemic and rising interest rates have on supply chains. The industry has found it much more difficult to manufacture, transport, and erect wind turbines than it expected.” And this while “more than 6,000” offshore wind turbines have been set up “in Europe, which has been building offshore wind farms for decades.”

Instrumental for plans for renewable energy for New York State has been Mark Z. Jacobson, Ph.D., director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program and professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University.

His research is detailed in his book published this year: “No Miracles Needed: How Today’s Technology Can Save Our Climate and Clean Our Air.” For years, and in the book, Jacobson has written about the use of “existing technologies to harness, store and transmit energy from wind, water, and solar sources to ensure reliable electricity” — thus no miracles needed. He says: “The world needs to switch away from using fossil fuels to using clean, renewable sources of energy as soon as possible. Failure to do so will lead to accelerated and catastrophic climate damage, loss of biodiversity, and economic, social, and political stability.”

Jacobson proposes wind power on land and offshore, energy from water including tidal and wave power, and solar energy — a combination he calls “WWS” for wind, water and solar. With other renewable energy technologies, they would lead a “transition” from fossil fuels. Indeed, two bills in the New York State Legislature, in 2016 and 2019, both declared: “This bill builds upon the Jacobson wind, water and solar (WWS) study.” To view a TV interview I did with Jacobson this year, visit envirovideo.org.