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Sparks

Orsted Powers Up America’s First Major Offshore Wind Farm

The South Fork Wind project off the coast of Long Island just delivered the U.S.'s first utility-scale offshore wind power.

An offshore wind farm.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Out in the Atlantic Ocean, 35 miles off the eastern tip of Long Island, sits a single, mammoth wind turbine. On Wednesday, its oscillating blades started sending power into the New York grid.

The South Fork Wind Farm is officially the first utility-scale offshore wind project operating in the United States.

The turbine was installed just two weeks ago with union labor, and it’s the first of 12 that are expected to be completed by early 2024. Each one will have three blades measuring 318 feet from base to tip, or about twice the length of an olympic-sized swimming pool. When completed, the project will have the capacity to meet the electricity needs of some 70,000 homes on Long Island. New York officials estimate the project will eliminate up to 6 million tons of carbon emissions per year, similar to taking 60,000 cars off the road.

South Fork is one of two offshore wind farms currently under construction in the northeast. The other, Vineyard Wind, will sell power to Massachusetts and will be five times larger, with 62 turbines able to power more than 400,000 homes. Shortly after South Fork powered up on Wednesday, Avangrid, the project developer behind Vineyard Wind, announced that it had installed five turbines which would begin delivering power “in the coming weeks.”

South Fork Wind was first approved by the Long Island Power Authority in 2017. Its operation is a major milestone as the once-promising offshore wind industry has taken a beating of late from inflation, high interest rates, and supply chain constraints. Two projects that were under development further north — Commonwealth Wind and SouthCoast Wind — pulled out of their contracts with Massachusetts earlier this year, citing cost increases.

Then in early November, Orsted, one of the companies behind South Fork, canceled plans to develop two offshore wind farms near New Jersey. A spokesperson for Orsted also told Heatmap that the viability of one of its other, much larger projects contracted in New York — Sunrise Wind — was “extremely challenged.”

The turbulence in the industry threatens climate goals throughout the northeast, where offshore wind offers an ideal solution for dense cities with limited space to put solar or wind arrays on land. New York aims to have 100% clean power by 2040, with 9 gigawatts of offshore wind contributing to the target by 2035. Once the 12 turbines that make up South Fork are completed, it will be 1% of the way there.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article misstated the percent of progress the South Fork project will represent for New York's offshore wind goal.

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Emily Pontecorvo profile image

Emily Pontecorvo

Emily is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Previously she was a staff writer at the nonprofit climate journalism outlet Grist, where she covered all aspects of decarbonization, from clean energy to electrified buildings to carbon dioxide removal.

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Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

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Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

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