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Suffolk County rallies to offer 'no brainer' support for Sunrise Wind

Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine, environmentalists, labor leaders and other elected officials rallied on Friday, Feb. 2., to call on lawmakers in Albany to advance support for Sunrise Wind, an offshore wind project proposed by Danish energy company Ørsted.
Sara McGiff
/
WSHU
Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine, environmentalists, labor leaders and other elected officials rallied on Friday, Feb. 2., to call on lawmakers in Albany to advance support for Sunrise Wind, an offshore wind project proposed by Danish energy company Ørsted.

Offshore wind projects in New York have been a slow-moving process filled with roadblocks due to a lack of community support and economic barriers, industry experts said. However, that’s not stopping Suffolk County lawmakers from showing bipartisan support for Sunrise Wind, an offshore wind project proposed by Danish energy company Ørsted.

“Here, this is not a Democrat or Republican issue. Our focus is local and since we all live here, we want to solve the problems together to get this done,” Romaine said. “When I look at the future, I realize we're going to need more energy than ever: Why not renewable?”

The project has been in the works since 2019 when the 880 megawatt offshore wind farm was awarded a bid by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. However, Ørsted has faced several setbacks, including the COVID-19 pandemic, rising inflation, supply chain issues, and dropping stock prices. Earlier this year, the Danish company lost its partner in Eversource, which jumped from the joint venture. Most recently, Ørsted pulled out of its Skipjack Wind project in Maryland because it was no longer commercially viable.

Suffolk County lawmakers emphasized the importance of keeping this project alive. According to Ørsted, Sunrise Wind would deliver an estimated $700 million in investments toward jobs, assets, and partnerships throughout the county.

Romaine, the former supervisor of the Town of Brookhaven, noted an area where these investments are already felt is Mastic, where they plan to run cables from Smith Point Beach.

“In the Mastic-Shirley community, Patriot’s Preserve, we got our first million dollars from this agreement,” said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Dan Panico. “We used that money in the creation of a beautiful pristine park in the tri-hamlet community, one of the most densely populated communities that is underserved.”

State Senator Dean Murray (R-Patchogue) said the project was a “no-brainer” for bringing more union jobs to the island.

“We’ve got to be taking those steps, this is the future,” Murray said. “The fact of the community benefits that we receive, the fact we have jobs through the building trades, training facilities at Suffolk County Community College for on-and-on training for more jobs down the road. I don’t see the downside.”

Sunrise Wind has initiated its workforce development program by investing $10 million into a National Workforce Training Center through a partnership with Suffolk County Community College. The companysaid the center will have “partners from labor, academia, and the environmental community, the Center will feature facilities and programming that aim to cement Suffolk County’s role as an integral part of the offshore wind industry.”

Another aspect Suffolk’s elected officials will have to consider is swaying public opinion. The South Fork Wind farm project faced lawsuits and protests against the project from residents in Wainscott. A heated debate in Long Beach broke out last week when residents expressed their opposition to the now-thrown-out plan to run a high-voltage transmission cable through the city.

However, Romaine said he’s confident that residents will support this project

“Energy affects everyone on this island,” said Romaine. “When sandy hit we couldn’t pump gas for our cars, for those who are dependent on well-water, we couldn’t pump water to drink or cook food with. Power is my first focus because it affects everyone universally.”

If advanced, the wind farm would be stationed 30 miles off the coast of Montauk, with cables coming in from Smith Point Beach in Mastic to connect to Long Island’s electricity grid at the Holbrook Substation.

The project would power over 600,000 Long Island homes — over two-thirds of the current residencies here.

Sara McGiff is a news intern at WSHU for the fall of 2023.