Plans for the Empire Wind 2 offshore wind farm — a controversial project that would impact Long Beach, Oceanside, Island Park and other nearby municipalities — have been scrapped, at least for now.
On Jan. 3, Equinor and BP announced an agreement with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to terminate the Offshore Wind Renewable Energy Certificate Agreement for the project. In a statement explaining the termination, Equinor cited rising inflation, higher borrowing costs, and supply chain issues.
In November, the state announced new energy guidelines that will allow companies that petition the state for financial relief, as BP and Equinor did, to cancel old contracts and re-offer projects at higher prices. The winners of an expedited solicitation for offshore wind will be announced in February.
Local elected officials and community leaders who vehemently opposed the project were ecstatic about the latest decision.
“Protecting our community and preserving our environment and quality of life is paramount to the Village of Island Park,” Mayor Michael McGinty said in a statement. “The voice of Island Park was heard loud and clear — we will not be taken advantage of. We will not allow any organization to compromise our health, safety, and quality of life for the sake of increasing their profit margin.”
“We are pleased to learn Equinor has abandoned this misguided project,” Long Beach City Council President Brendan Finn said. “We will remain vigilant to ensure the health, safety and quality of life of our residents are protected.”
Empire Wind expected to produce more than 3.3 gigawatts of clean energy, enough to power more than 2 million homes, according to Teddy Muhlfelder, a vice president of Equinor, a Norwegian energy company. The energy generated by 846-foot-tall wind turbines would be transmitted by underground cables to the Hampton Road electrical substation in Oceanside, and linked as well to an existing transmission line beneath Lawson Boulevard in Oceanside.
One of the concerns he had heard residents express, Muhlfelder said, was about exposure to electromagnetic fields. Even at their peak, he said, the project’s EMF levels would fall significantly below the safety thresholds recognized both in New York and internationally.
State Sen. Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick and Assemblyman Ari Brown, who have expressed opposition to the project, hailed the termination of the agreement.
“Upholding safety and quality of life in our community are paramount,” Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick said. “The poor financial planning and lack of community engagement demonstrated by Equinor doomed this project right from the start.
“The termination of the OREC Agreement for the Empire Wind 2 project reflects the tireless efforts of myself and Assemblyman Brown, buoyed by the strong voices of our constituents, to ensure that proposed offshore wind projects are held to account for the potential impacts on our communities,” Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick added.
“Alongside our neighbors and constituents, Sen. Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick and I have dedicated ourselves to a tireless effort to safeguard our community’s interests,” Brown said. “The termination of the Empire Wind 2 project’s OREC Agreement reflects our commitment to ensuring our community’s well being amidst challenges faced by the offshore wind industry. We persist in prioritizing our community’s safety, well-being and energy needs.”
After months of discussion and back-and-forth between supporters and opponents of the project, Gov. Kathy Hochul vetoed a bill last October that was aimed at speeding up its construction. The bill also would have allowed Equinor to run power cables to transfer the energy generated by the turbines beneath Long Beach to an Island Park substation.
Many community members in the surrounding areas were stridently opposed to idea of cables running beneath their neighborhoods.
The Empire Wind 1, which would have supplied power to the Brooklyn area, and Empire Wind 2 projects recently reached a key federal permitting milestone, having received a Record of Decision from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Last month, Empire Wind 1 also received a New York State article VII Certificate.
Equinor and BP officials described last week’s decision as a “reset,” and left open the possibility that they would push for the project again in the near future. “Commercial viability is fundamental for ambitious projects of this size and scale,” Molly Morris, president of Equinor Renewables Americas, said in a release. “The Empire Wind 2 decision provides the opportunity to reset and develop a stronger and more robust project going forward.
“We will continue to closely engage our many community partners across the state,” Morris added. “As evidenced by the progress at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, our offshore wind activity is ready to generate union jobs and significant economic activity in New York.”
Referring to the state Energy Research and Development Authority, Joshua Weinstein, BP’s president of Offshore Wind Americas, said, “BP is supportive of NYSERDA’s leadership and commitment to offshore wind, which we believe is a critical part of New York state’s and America’s clean energy future. Offshore wind can deliver reliable renewable power as well as economic benefits to the state and its communities.”
NYSERDA, offshore wind developers, industry partners and other state agencies plan to hold a series of informational open houses across the state this year to keep the public informed about the state’s offshore energy goals and proposed projects. One of those meetings will take place at the Long Beach Public Library on Jan. 24, at 6 p.m.
McGinty said that Island Park would continue its fight against any similar projects.
“The village remains dedicated and committed to understanding how offshore wind initiatives may impact our community,” he said. “Although we are pleased with this recent announcement, we remain vigilant about Equinor, BP, or any other company that will possibly re-bid in the upcoming state solicitation process for offshore wind. We will always prioritize the interests of our residents and keep them informed of any developments in offshore wind that could affect Island Park.
“I join the Board of Trustees in applauding our residents’ advocacy against this project,” McGinty added. “I would like to express my most sincere gratitude to all who have raised awareness about this project and made their voices heard. It is only because we stuck together and voiced our concerns as a community that our message was heard loud and clear.”
Additional reporting by Kepherd Daniel.