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Feds to start environmental review for wind farm off South Shore

The Biden administration on Thursday said it will begin an environmental review for an offshore wind farm project off Long Island’s South Shore.

The review of the Empire Wind project by Norway-based Equinor is an important step in the construction and operation of 174 turbines as near as 12 nautical miles from the South Shore. Equinor was awarded a state contract in 2019 to supply 816 megawatts of power to the state grid, connecting in Brooklyn.

The federal announcement about Empire Wind said the project will include two offshore substations, two offshore electric cable routes, up to three cable landfall sites, up to three onshore electric cable routes and two onshore substations. Specifics on the cable routes and landing sites weren’t provided. A substation converts power from a generator such as a wind turbine to electricity usable on the grid.

An Equinor spokeswoman didn’t immediately provide responses to Newsday questions.

It’s uncertain which turbine models Equinor plans to use for its project, but in the past it has said they would be 14 miles from the shore, not 12 as the Thursday announcement states. If Equinor uses the latest turbines, which are more than 800-feet tall, including the tip of the blade, they could produce considerably more than the 816 megawatts planned for Empire Wind I, some 15 miles off Jones Beach, the original project awarded for New York State. The turbines will be visible from Long Island, officials have said.

The agency said the turbines would be as near as 17 nautical miles from New Jersey.

Equinor has received state contract awards for three separate projects from New York State, for more than 3,300 megawatts of wind power. The Empire Wind I project was followed by two awards in January. Empire Wind 2 will also be located directly south of Empire Wind 1 in waters off Long Island known as the New York Bight, where Equinor has an 80,000-acre water lease from the federal government.

Commercial fishing groups have objected to turbines in large parts of that region, saying it’s essential scallop, squid and other fishing grounds. Equinor is also developing a project known as Beacon Wind to produce 1,230 megawatts from a separate lease off the coast of Massachusetts, which will also provide energy for New York, connecting with a more than 100-mile undersea cable.

As part of the environmental review, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will publish a notice of intent to begin its environmental review on Friday, and conduct three virtual public “scoping” meetings for the review on June 30, July 8 and July 13.

Registration for the meetings can be found here: https://www.boem.gov/Empire-Wind-Scoping-Virtual-Meetings

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