Residents of Island Park, Long Beach and Oceanside voiced their opinions, made comments and asked questions virtually March 2 at a New York Public Service Commission hearing on Equinor’s proposed wind farm off the South Shore, but only questions about the routes of Equinor Empire Wind 2’s transmission cables were answered, as per commission rules.
Equinor, a multi-billion-dollar energy company based in Norway, is planning to install 12 miles of transmission lines on the South Shore. It has asked the commission to approve the routes of those lines, but many residents aren’t happy with them.
The cables, if approved, will come ashore in Long Beach, at Riverside Boulevard, and continue up to a substation, not yet constructed, on Railroad Place in Island Park, where Pop’s Seafood Shack & Grill restaurant used to be. From there they will run north, parallel to the Long Island Rail Road tracks, to the E.F. Barrett Power Plant.
Once completed, the project is expected to bring 3.3 gigawatts of power into the state’s grid, a step toward achieving the state Energy Research and Development Authority and the Department of Public Service’s nation-leading climate goals of generating at least 10 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2035 — enough to power nearly 700,000 homes.
Multiple onshore cable routes are under consideration, Josh Verleun, Equinor’s director of permitting, explained at the hearing, and up to two routes will be used.
Residents like commercial fisherman James Torborg, of Island Park, are asking if the routes and substation could be moved to the industrial area of Island Park, further north. “Why do we have to have the substation in Island Park?” Torborg asked. “If you’re going to run cables through what we call either (the) Liotta area, or we call it Oil City back there — very, very industrial — why is this going on waterfront property in a residential area right on the water? Why can’t this industrial substation be put in the industrial place?”
Verleun replied that during the permitting process, Equinor analyzed various alternatives that included a substation on Railroad Place, the Long Beach Road property of Liotta Bros. Recycling Corp., and a third site closer to the Barret property. But company officials ran into a wetland issue near the plant.
“For the offshore wind project, there is a need for … what I’m told by the electrical engineers is voltage regulation as well, with 230 kilovolts coming from offshore to sort of step that up to 345 kilovolts,” Verleun said. “It’s my understanding that the site at Liotta Bros. would be a challenge from an engineering perspective, to have both the substation and the interconnection facilities that are required for us to connect into the grid.”
“I understand,” Torborg said, making it clear that he was for green energy, but not sure this was the right way to do it. “It just doesn’t really make sense — as a resident living here my entire life, it doesn’t make sense,” he said. “Why you would remove a restaurant, a venue that brings business to our community, when there is so much industrial wasteland in this area that could be used?” He added that the Equinor development “drastically affects my life.”
Torborg also brought up the lifespan of the turbines that would be built in the Atlantic, which is about 30 years. As a fisherman, he explained to the commission that he sees the turbines that are part of the Block Island Wind Farm, in operation since 2016, while out on the water, but has never seen all five operating at the same time. He worries, he said, that the same will happen in South Shore waters.
Other questions that were raised by residents, but couldn’t be answered because of the limited scope of the hearing, focused on the carbon footprint of the Empire 1 and 2 projects’ 147 planned turbines, their manufacturing, installation, maintenance and safety in the event of natural disaster or terrorism, and the project’s effects on long-term health.
The next virtual hearings, scheduled for Thursday, at 1 and 5 p.m. will be open to questions on a wider range of topics related to the project.