Recap: Discussion on the South Fork Wind Farm

January 14, 2021

We recently held a ninety minute informational session on the South Fork Wind project in partnership with Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Group for the East End, Renewable Energy Long Island, and Win With Wind. The South Fork Wind Farm, powered by Orsted and Eversource, will be the first offshore wind farm in New York State, and is expected to become operational in December 2023. The event featured remarks from East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, a presentation by the South Fork Wind project team, and a question and answer session hosted by Joe Martens, Director of the New York Offshore Wind Alliance.

Click here to watch a recording of the event.

NYLCVEF President Julie Tighe kicked off the forum, mentioning that renewable energy projects like this represent one of the most important steps we can take to reduce the effects of climate change. She reiterated that New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act legally commits us to the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Tighe also stated that the project will produce enough energy to power over 70,000 homes, and result in more than $29 million in investments to the local community.

Following, Peter Van Scoyoc delivered his comments on the project. He said that the South Fork Wind Farm is a necessary part of reaching the town’s 100% renewable energy goal. He also mentioned East Hampton’s Climate Smart Communities Bronze Certificate as part of its commitment to sustainability. Bringing up the harmful algal blooms caused by nitrogen pollution and the risk posed to the south fork of Long Island by rising sea levels and increased storms, Scoyoc emphasized the harmful effects of climate change. Finally, Scoyoc talked about the 1.1 megawatt solar farm project the town has already completed, which offsets 50% of municipal energy use in town government buildings.

Jennifer Garvey, Long Island Development Manager for Orsted, provided an overview of the South Fork Wind Farm. The farm will consist of up to 15 turbines located 35 miles East of Montauk Point. She also mentioned that the Wind Farm will deliver 132 megawatts of output to the Long Island Power Authority’s East Hampton substation. The power will be transmitted through a single 138 kilovolt line. Garvey also stressed that the project was very receptive to community concern, as they are adhering to nearly 200 negotiations when building the farm. She then outlined the three components of the farm in East Hampton, the first of which is a sea-to-shore transition. The sea-to-shore transition consists of a 2,500 foot horizontal directional drill (HDD), which begins in the road 500 feet landward of the dunes, and ends 1,750 feet offshore of the beach. The second component is an underground transmission line, which includes about 2 miles of cable under town-owned roads, and another approximately 2 miles of underground cable near the LIRR corridor. Finally, there will be an expansion of the substation. 

Following Garvey’s presentation was a question and answer segment moderated by Joe Martens, featuring experts Ken Bowes, Vice President of Offshore Wind Siting & Permitting at Orsted, and Dr. William Bailey, Principal Scientist at Exponent. Ken Bowes started by fielding a question about what the sea to shore transition process entails. He mentioned that it consisted of drilling a 2,500 foot path for the cable and a conduit. The cable will extend 2,500 feet into the sea. To protect against future exposure due to erosion, the cable will be placed a minimum of 30 feet under the beach and will return to its regular depth when it is 550 feet inland. The use of the HDD method (illustrated in figure 1 below) as opposed to an open cut excavation method will also help protect against erosion.

Bowes went on to explain that throughout the project, beach and road access will be maintained for both vehicles and people. Drilling is expected to commence on November 1st, and will operate every day except Sunday from 7 AM to 7 PM. To deal with the noise pollution, the project will alleviate lots of high frequency noises as well as some of the lower frequency ones. Equipment will also be positioned strategically to minimize its noise pollution. There will also be real-time monitoring of noise levels, to modify noise if levels get too high.

Bowes also mentioned the construction of large underground concrete structures called vaults on Beach Lane, where the transition from a submarine cable to three separate cables takes place. The only visible difference post-construction will be the addition of two manhole covers. Vaults will be accessed for inspection after one year, before taking on a five year inspection cycle. There will be additional digging for 10 concrete-encased underground duct banks. Six of these will be located on publicly-owned roads, while the remaining four will be dug along the LIRR corridor. The work window on public roads will be from October 1st to April 30th, and it is expected to take 120 days to complete the work. The work pace will be 100 feet per day, resulting in 7-9 days of impact for a resident with 300 ft of frontage.

To expand the substation, a two acre parcel of land adjacent to the substation with low quality vegetation will be cleared. At the request of the community, the expanded structure will be only 45 feet tall and feature a permanent wall around it. There will be no residual noise while the project is running, Bowes says. Oversight for the project is expected to be provided from the contractors, South Fork Wind, the town, the state, and federal inspectors, to ensure everyone’s safety. Bowes pledged that if anything unsafe is observed, the job would be halted to fix it. 

Dr. William Bailey, one of the world’s foremost experts on electromagnetic radiation and fields, fielded questions about the possible health and environmental effects of the project. When asked whether the EMF from the project could harm people, pets, or marine life, Dr. Bailey explained that exposure assessment was carried out as part of the project. He said that because of the cables’ depth and structure, the EMF radiation levels are 10-50 times below international guidelines even when standing directly above them. In fact, the magnetic fields we experience in our homes from electrical appliances can be hundreds of times higher than any exposure from the project. He said that all electricity is capable of producing electric and magnetic fields, but that the cables’ metallic casing completely blocks out the electric fields, and that the magnetic fields partially cancel out each other. He also mentioned that South Fork Wind is complying with not only the state standards set in 1978 and 1992, but also with the health-based limits set by the World Health Organization.

To view the presentation slides, please click here

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