Local officials cheer when South Fork winds start producing electricity

Anthony Nolan saw a turbine at the South Fork Wind Farm for the first time, and he pointed out the ferry window, smiling like a kid at a science fair.

“There we can see it. I’ll bring my camera,” said Nolan, a state representative from New London, a Democrat. “Seeing that in pictures online doesn’t mean coming here in person. “It helps us understand the impact.”

The turbine blades turned slowly, a picture of silence as the ship shuddered in the open sea, far from the protection of Long Island Sound. The crashing waves were soaking the windows but the weather was clear and sunny.

CT Examiner joined a number of state and local officials, Eversource and Ørsted employees, and union officials aboard the 143-foot Cecelia Ann for what was in most ways their first in-person look at the South Fork Wind.

With a peak generating capacity of 132 megawatts, South Fork is the only commercial-scale offshore wind farm operating in the United States, producing approximately 6% of the electricity currently generated by Connecticut’s only operating nuclear power plant, Millstone.

The South Fork Farm, which became operational in March, is the first offshore wind farm to be assembled and offloaded from the government’s New London dock, a project dating back to 2022.

Offshore wind development is a priority of the Biden administration’s green agenda that stimulates the transition to an electrified economy and renewable energy. Statewide, the project is a small step toward meeting Connecticut’s goal of providing carbon-free power to the grid by 2040.

The sight of the South Fork up and running is also rare good news for a project plagued by cost overruns that has so far produced few local jobs.

“I can never say the project was excellent,” Nolan said. “But it’s paying off. It brings in millions in taxes, creates local jobs and brings more activity to our businesses.”

Two hours into the cruise, the Cecelia Ann paused near the South Fork Wind’s 12 turbines. Each tower extended out of the water 788 feet, about 56 stories or the height of the Woolworth Building in Manhattan, taller than any building in Connecticut, according to a voice over a loudspeaker, and its blades were 319 feet long, longer than a football field.

The turbines appeared to be spaced a mile apart for easy navigation, closely spaced against an endless, empty blue plain.

It also shows a substation raising voltage to send electricity all the way to Southport, Long Island.

On deck, passengers took selfies like tourists. The mood was joyful and triumphant.

State Rep. Anthony Nolan (far right) and several officials pose for photos of South Fork Wind (CT Examiner)

“If you can build this, you can build anything you want,” one Eversource employee told a colleague.

For Ørsted, the photo opportunity was a milestone, allowing the world’s largest offshore wind developer to show an audience of stakeholders the first tangible accomplishments of the work off State Pier, according to David Ortiz, head of government affairs and market strategy at Ørsted. Northeast of the country.

“There were very few jobs and almost no economic activity at New London State Pier before the state decided to make this investment to turn it into an asset for the offshore wind industry,” Ortiz said. “The population that is being employed as a result of the South Fork Winds, now the Revolution Winds, the Sunrise Winds and projects coming in for decades. This represents a tremendous increase in jobs and economic opportunity at New London State Pier that did not exist before.”

Port Authority Chairman David Koris expressed his pride in the work completed, after years of criticism over the project’s cost and delays.

“I’m amazed to see the result of years of effort,” Koris said. “The turbines, the substations, the transmission lines, and all the engineering is in a place that 99% of Americans will never visit, and yet we all benefit from what happens there.”

As the ferry returns to New London Harbor, Revolution Wind’s new turbine towers can be seen lined up on State Pier. The towers arrived two weeks ago and are part of the Ørsted II project that will be assembled at State Pier and installed outside in 2024 and 2025. The first blades are scheduled to arrive on May 23.

The Revolution Wind project will be constructed and installed on a much larger scale – 65 turbines with a generating capacity of 880 MW. By 2026, Ørsted plans to start Sunrise Wind, an 84-turbine, 924-MW project.

Additionally, in March, Ørsted bid another project, Starboard Wind, at a wind energy auction held jointly by Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. If awarded, the 1,184 MW wind farm would also be constructed off-state.

Offshore wind has the support of labor leaders, who are currently in talks with developers to negotiate working conditions, according to Ed Hawthorne, president of the AFL-CIO in Connecticut.

“As a labor movement, we see it as a new industrial revolution, where there will be good union jobs,” Hawthorne said. “We need to look at it as an investment in the future, because climate justice and economic justice, in our view, are the same thing.”

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