First US Utility-Scale Offshore Wind Project Nears Completion
With the recent installation of its offshore substation, New York’s 130-megawatt South Fork Wind is one step closer to coming online by the end of 2023. It’s slated to become the first utility-scale offshore wind project in the U.S.
After installing a 1,500-ton offshore substation off the coast of Long Island, the 130-megawatt (MW) South Fork Wind project is on track to come online by the end of 2023 as the first U.S. utility-scale offshore wind farm.
A 1,500-ton substation unit was installed for the 130-megawatt South Fork Wind project off the coast of Long Island. Image used courtesy of South Fork Wind
With the monopile foundation and substation now complete, the final construction phase will bring the remaining towers, blades, and nacelles to the offshore site later this summer and fall. Once operational, the facility is expected to power about 70,000 homes annually.
The project started construction in early 2022 with the onshore export cable system. It’s a 50-50 partnership between Danish energy giant Ørsted and Eversource, a utility serving Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.
The recent installation makes South Fork Wind the first utility-scale offshore wind site in federal waters. It’s also the first American-made offshore wind substation, with over 350 workers across three states (designed and engineered in Kansas, built at a fabrication facility in Texas, shipped to the Northeast, and lifted onto the monopile foundation in New York), constructing the 60-foot-tall unit.
An offshore installation vessel transported and installed the foundations for the South Fork Wind project in June 2023. Image used courtesy of South Fork Wind
South Fork Wind Boosts US Offshore Wind Capacity
The offshore site sits 35 miles east of Montauk Point, at the eastern tip of Long Island in the Atlantic Ocean. A 138-kilovolt alternating current transmission line will serve power to the Town of East Hampton, home to a population of about 28,300. Ørsted and Eversource sourced the project’s 12 wind turbine generators (11 MW each) from European supplier Siemens Gamesa, one of the world’s leading turbine makers.
At 130 MW of capacity, South Fork Wind marks a substantial expansion of America’s installed base of small-scale offshore wind projects, totaling 42 MW. Only two sites are operational today: The 30-MW Block Island Wind Farm started operating in 2016 off the coast of Rhode Island, and the 12-MW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project was completed in 2020.
South Fork Wind is one of three commercial-scale offshore wind projects approved by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) for construction in the U.S. The agency recently rubber-stamped construction and operation plans for New Jersey’s Ocean Wind 1 project, which is expected to provide 1.1 gigawatts (GW) of electricity for up to 500,000 homes by 2025.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts’s Vineyard Wind 1 is expected to deliver its first 800 MW of electricity to over 400,000 homes later this year. Situated 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, the project installed its first monopiles and transition pieces this summer.
Offshore Wind Activity in the Atlantic
Offshore wind development is expected to ramp up as the federal government offers production and investment incentives to help meet its 2030 target to develop 30 GW. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 40 GW of offshore wind capacity is in various stages of development nationwide as of May 2022.
The BOEM will review 16 construction and operation plans for commercial projects by 2025, totaling 27 GW of offshore wind capacity.
BOEM’s renewable energy activities off the coast of New York. Image used courtesy of BOEM
For New York, South Fork Wind supports the state’s goal to develop 9 GW of offshore wind by 2035, enough to cover about 30% of its electricity needs or about 6 million homes. According to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the project is one of five offshore wind sites in active development—marking the country’s largest portfolio, with more than 4.3 GW expected to power 2.4 million homes.
The BOEM oversees six commercial wind lease areas in the New York Bight, a hot spot of interest to developers. In February 2022, the agency closed an offshore wind auction with $4.37 billion in bids from six companies.