Wind warriors earn support in Wainscott beach battle

Beachhead: While environmentalists have hailed the plan, hundreds of local residents have signed a petition opposing the landing of an undersea power-transmission cable in Wainscott.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

With local opposition still pushing against the tide, Long Island wind-power backers are applauding new state support for a plan to land an undersea transmission cable on a Wainscott beach.

Five New York State agencies – including the NYS Department of Public Service, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and the NYS Department of Transportation – have signed a “joint proposal,” already supported by local governments and regional environmental groups, calling for the siting of a transmission line from the South Fork Wind Farm through the Hamlet of Wainscott, en route to Long Island Power Authority substation.

The cable is critical to the project, through which sponsors Ørsted, Denmark’s largest energy company, and Connecticut-based Eversource Energy plan to provide renewable energy for 70,000 East End homes – and ultimately, as many as a half-million.

While the South Fork Wind Farm has been hailed by regional environmental groups, various facets of the projects have met with community resistance. Among other opposition, some 1,500 local residents have signed a petition challenging the transmission cable’s so-called “Beach Lane route,” a proposed 4.1-mile path through East Hampton, and questioning whether project engineers have adequately considered potential alternatives.

Joe Martens: Milestone moment.

More opposition is expected in the next phase of the Public Service Commission’s transmission line siting process, which includes written testimonies from concerned parties. A final decision on the transmission line isn’t expected until early 2021.

But regional wind-power supporters are hailing the state’s endorsement of the joint proposal – essentially, of landing the undersea cable in Wainscott – as another milestone step toward plugging fossil fuel-free electricity into LIPA’s grid.

Citing a host of environmentally sensitive mitigation measures incorporated by Ørsted and Eversource into updated engineering designs – and applauding Gov. Andrew Cuomo for “recognizing … the need to jumpstart the development of offshore wind” – New York Offshore Wind Alliance Director Joe Martens framed the state support for the transmission line as an across-the-board Long Island win.

“This is an important milestone in advancing a project that will bring clean energy to Long Island, create jobs and spur investments in ports and other vital infrastructure,” Martens added.