BOEM Moves South Fork Offshore Wind Farm Closer to Approval

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has completed its environmental review of the South Fork offshore wind farm and plans to issue a record of decision on whether to approve the proposed project in October.

If approved, the 130 MW wind farm planned to be built off the coasts of Rhode Island and New York would be the second commercial-scale offshore wind project in the United States.

BOEM has now published the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project, which analyses the potential environmental impacts of the activities laid out in the Construction and Operations Plan (COP), and expects to issue a record of decision (ROD) on the COP after completing a couple of more steps over the coming weeks.

Namely, the project still has the Section 106 consultation process consistent with the National Historic Preservation Act and the biological opinion required by the Endangered Species Act to be finalised.

The US Army Corps of Engineers and the National Marine Fisheries Service will sign the ROD for their respective authorisation decisions.

BOEM published a Draft EIS for South Fork on 6 January and opened a 45-day public comment period, during which time 1,300 public comments were received.

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Three virtual public meetings were also held to solicit additional feedback on the Draft EIS from community members, Tribal nations, commercial fishing interests, and other ocean users.

“BOEM incorporated these comments and stakeholders’ feedback into the Final EIS, a critical step to ensure the project can move forward while balancing the needs and interests of everyone who may be affected by the development”, the federal agency said on 16 August.

The 130 MW South Fork project, being developed by Ørsted and Eversource, is located around 30 kilometres (19 miles) southeast of Block Island, Rhode Island, and some 56 kilometres (35 miles) east of Montauk Point, New York.

The offshore wind farm, which was planned to comprise up to 15 wind turbines with a capacity of between 6 MW and 12 MW, will most likely opt for 11 MW units after the developers decided to reduce the number of wind turbines from 15 to 12 earlier this year.

Ørsted and Eversource expect the project to be fully permitted by January 2022, with construction activities starting soon after that. The offshore wind farm is planned to be completed and put into operation by the end of 2023.

Photo: South Fork Wind; Ørsted/Eversource