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The first big US offshore wind farm is open — here’s what’s next

South Fork Wind is complete after a tumultuous year for the offshore wind industry. The 132 MW wind farm can power 70,000 homes in New York.
By Maria Gallucci

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A dozen white wind turbines in the ocean
The South Fork Wind farm officially opened two years after construction began near Long Island, New York. (Ørsted)

America’s first utility-scale offshore wind farm is finally finished, marking an important milestone in what’s shaping up to be a busy year for the emerging U.S. industry.

On Thursday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) announced the completion of South Fork Wind, a 132-megawatt project by Danish energy giant Ørsted and Boston-based utility Eversource. All 12 of the wind farm’s towering turbines are now in place and producing enough clean electricity to power roughly 70,000 homes in Long Island, New York.

With more projects in the pipeline, this is just the beginning of New York’s offshore wind future,” Hochul said at an event in the waterfront town of Southampton, which was also attended by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.

Construction on South Fork Wind last year represented a rare bright spot for the otherwise embattled U.S. offshore wind sector. Financial hardships and logistical challenges in 2023 hammered project developers, including Ørsted, leading to the delay or cancellation of around 12,000 megawatts (12 gigawatts) of offshore wind farms.

Experts say the setbacks make it increasingly unlikely that the country will meet the Biden administration’s goal of installing 30 GW of offshore wind by the end of this decade. To date, the U.S. has installed just over 240 MW of capacity — including from the South Fork Wind Farm, plus handfuls of turbines spinning off Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Virginia.

Still, the industry seems to be gaining its footing this year, particularly as interest rates improve and supply-chain logjams start to clear.

I see every indication that there’s developer confidence in the sector,” Theodore Paradise, an attorney specializing in offshore wind at the law firm K&L Gates, told Canary Media.

Two other projects are currently under construction: Avangrid’s 806 MW Vineyard Wind farm in Massachusetts, which is already producing power from five turbines, and Ørsted’s 704 MW Revolution Wind farm, which will supply electricity to Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Meanwhile, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are planning to jointly solicit proposals for up to 6 GW of offshore wind capacity, potentially later this month. Those three states — along with Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont — are also working to develop regional transmission infrastructure that serves multiple projects, instead of the current, costlier practice of building transmission lines for individual wind farms.

The Biden administration is also expected to hold a second auction for offshore wind development rights in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as first-ever auctions in Oregon and Maine. Those two states will require the use of floating offshore wind turbines, a technology being increasingly deployed in Europe but that’s new to the United States.

Certain developers are looking at the landscape and really leaning into it; other developers have seen some challenges and are reassessing what they want their position to be in the United States,” Paradise said. But overall, we see the industry is moving forward.”

Most recently, in New York, two offshore wind farms signed fresh power-purchase agreements with the state. Ørsted’s 924 MW Sunrise Wind project and Equinor’s 810 MW Empire Wind 1 project had previously secured long-term agreements to deliver clean electricity to New York in 2019. But the developers opted to replace those contracts and rebid their projects in order to secure more favorable terms amid dramatically different economic conditions.

New York is aiming to build 9 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2035 — the most ambitious near-term goal in the country, and enough to meet about 30 percent of the state’s electricity needs. To meet that target, the state will need to build projects equal to nearly 70 more South Fork Wind farms.

While South Fork Wind’s opening is only a small step toward achieving that ambitious task, offshore wind proponents in New York and nationwide are lauding it as a pivotal one that moves the nation closer to meeting its clean energy goals.

The U.S. offshore wind industry now enters a new phase with its first operational commercial-scale wind farm,” Liz Burdock, founder and CEO of the advocacy group Oceantic Network, said in a statement. Now the question is no longer if we can, but how fast we can.”

Maria Gallucci is a senior reporter at Canary Media. She covers emerging clean energy technologies and efforts to electrify transportation and decarbonize heavy industry.