The winds of change are slowly coming from the east — but they are coming as a Norway-based energy company readies to set up shop in Island Park.
Equinor — a multibillion-dollar company that has made its fortune in petroleum over the last 50 years — plans to construct a wind energy farm just miles off of Long Island with a substation delivering power directly to Island Park. While wind might be the kind of clean energy residents there are looking for, having a substation outside of the village’s industrial area may not be.
Equinor brought engineers, construction managers and experts to a public meeting at Lincoln Orens Middle School on Nov. 29, hoping to get the buy-in that might be needed to get the $3 billion project past bureaucratic red tape.
Dubbed Empire Wind, the project has two parts — one delivering power to Brooklyn, the other to the Long Beach area, connecting to the E.F. Barrett Power Station in Island Park.
The wind turbines themselves will be as close as 15 miles offshore, with a tip height of nearly 900 feet, and a rotor diameter of nearly 775 feet. All of it will span about 80,000 acres of ocean.
While the turbines will capture energy from the wind, a substation on the shore to help collect it is proposed along Railroad Place where Pop’s Seafood Shack & Grill once sat. Pop’s served its last meal over the summer after the land underneath it was bought by Equinor.
If the substation is built, Equinor officials say neighbors should expect no significant traffic or noise increase in the area.
Yet, the location is still troublesome for some.
“Why not put it next to the Barrett plant to keep industry in one area?” one audience member asked.
The answer has to do with the submarine export cables, according to the company, and how they must be placed.
It’s also not a decision left in the hands of Equinor, according to company spokesman Brian Young. Instead, that’s something that will be decided by regulatory authorities.
“In our permitting documents … we are required to evaluate alternative substation locations that could theoretically be used, including some that were closer to the Barrett generating station,” Young told the Herald. “Currently, the permitting agencies are evaluating both our proposed project — which has Pop’s as the substation — as well as the alternative locations that were presented in the permitting documents.”
That “alternative location” would be the Barrett power station, located just a short distance away.
But what about Island Park’s view from the beach on a clear day? Equinor officials say they’re currently working on a “benefits plan” for communities like Long Beach and Island Park affected by the development. They expect more news in the coming months.
Richard Schurin, however, isn’t holding his breath.
“My main concern as a resident is that Island Park doesn’t continue to be an industrial dumping zone without proper compensation,” he said. “We’re already suffering from the Barrett’s plant use. So, I’m concerned that another major utility company is using us as a host community.
“What are we going to be getting out of it?”
Equinor officials boasted a number of benefits the farm will provide both locally and regionally. Empire Wind is expected to bring thousands of jobs while upgrading the outdated electrical grid. Officials also claim nearly $2 billion in health benefits, and another $9 billion in economic activity — all while removing the equivalent carbon footprint of 1.3 million cars annually.
And then there’s a battle won against climate change by producing 2.1 gigawatts of renewable energy, capable of powering 1 million homes.
While there was some pushback from neighbors about the project, one — who wouldn’t give her name — said she was disappointed she didn’t see people there who would actually be affected.
“I’m going to be honest, there’s nobody here that will probably still be living here when they complete it,” she said. “Where are the young people? We need to get the younger people here.”