An offshore wind farm project 12 nautical miles off Long Island, New York backed by energy giants BP and Equinor has received U.S. government approval.
In a statement late on Tuesday (November 21, 2023), the U.S. Department of the Interior confirmed the Empire Wind offshore wind project backed by the duo had been given the go-ahead.
It will add 2.076GW of wind power capacity to the U.S. grid upon its completion by 2028, and is the sixth commercial-scale offshore wind farm project to receive approval from President Joe Biden’s administration.
The project includes plans for two offshore wind farms – Empire Wind 1 and Empire Wind 2. The former will add 816MW in capacity by 2027, while the latter will add 1,260MW a year later, according to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
The project will feature a total of up to 147 wind turbines that could power more than 700,000 American homes each year. Each mast will utilize 15MW wind turbines, according to estimates provided by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
The Biden administration said both projects would support over 830 jobs each year during the construction phase and about 300 jobs annually during the operations phase.
The Department of the Interior added that the project approval for Empire Wind is line with its goal of deploying 30GW of offshore wind along American coastlines by 2030.
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said: “The approval of the sixth offshore wind project adds to the significant progress towards our Administration’s clean energy goals.
“Together with the labor community, industry, Tribes, and partners from coast to coast, we will continue to expand clean energy development in a manner that will benefit communities, strengthen our nation’s energy security, and address climate change.”
The state of New York has its own ambition for 9GW of offshore wind capacity by 2035, in response to a decade-long campaign by supporters of renewable energy in the state.
However, U.S. wind power projects haven’t been without controversy and severe financial implications. Empire Wind itself is among several offshore wind projects facing construction and financing cost escalations that are highly unlikely to be covered by existing power sales.
For instance, BP and Equinor have booked $540 million and $300 million in impairments respectively on their projects off New York, after the state denied their request to renegotiate power supply terms.
However, some positive news may be on the horizon for both. On November 30, New York state will issue a fresh bid for offshore wind open to all bidders, including those with existing contracts like BP and Equinor, allowing the duo to re-offer their planned projects at higher prices and exit pre-existing contracts.
That may offer some crumbs of comfort. So far both companies, along with Demark’s Orsted have taken a combined writedown of over $5 billion on U.S. offshore wind projects that are nowhere near completion.