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New York’s Empire Wind Offshore Construction and Operation Plan Approved; Equinor Renewables and BP Team Up on Long-Awaited Offshore Wind Project

New York's Empire Wind Offshore Construction and Operation Plan Approved; Equinor Renewables and BP Team Up on Long-Awaited Offshore Wind Project

In a history-making decision, the origins of which date back to 2011, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced its approval of construction and operation of New York’s Empire Wind offshore wind project on November 21, 2023.

A joint project of Equinor Renewables and BP, Empire Wind US LLC will develop two offshore wind facilities, known as Empire Wind 1 and Empire Wind 2.

The lease area is located about 12 nautical miles (nm) south of Long Island, N.Y., and about 16.9 nm east of Long Branch, N.J. Together these projects are authorized for up to 147 wind turbines with a total capacity of 2,076 megawatts of clean, renewable energy that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) estimates could power more than 700,000 homes each year.  The projects would support over 830 jobs each year during the construction phase and about 300 jobs annually during the operations phase.

EW 1 and EW 2 will be independent from each other.  The onshore components of the projects will include up to three export cable landfalls in New York (one for EW 1 and up to two for EW 2) and two onshore substations:  EW 1 onshore substation in Brooklyn, New York; and EW 2 onshore substation A in Oceanside, New York, or EW 2 onshore substation C in Island Park, New York.

The official Record of Decision (ROD) that was issued on Nov. 21, 2023 for the project documents the decision to approve the construction of 147 wind turbines within the lease area. 

“The federal Record of Decision is a significant milestone in advancing Equinor and bp’s Empire Wind project to help deliver on state and federal climate ambitions,” said Molly Morris, Equinor Renewables Americas President.  “Empire Wind is a defining project for New York and we continue our work to connect with communities and realize the project’s potential of providing reliable renewable power, creating jobs and spurring economic development.”

Since 2021, the U.S. Department of the Interior has approved the nation’s first six commercial-scale offshore wind energy projects. BOEM has held four offshore wind lease auctions, which have brought in almost $5.5 billion in high bids, including a record-breaking sale offshore New York and New Jersey and the first-ever sales offshore the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico coasts.  BOEM has also advanced the process to explore additional opportunities for offshore wind energy development in the U.S., including in the Gulf of Maine and offshore Oregon and the U.S. Central Atlantic coast. The Department has also taken steps to evolve its approach to offshore wind to drive towards union-built projects and a domestic-based supply chain.

Invaluable feedback was gathered through nation-to-nation consultations with Tribes, input from federal, state and local agencies, and from public meetings and comments in analyzing the project’s potential environmental impacts and developing possible alternatives and mitigation measures.

The Record of Decision includes measures aimed at avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating the potential impacts that may result from the construction and operation of the project.  Among those measures, Empire Wind, LLC has committed to establishing fishery mitigation funds to compensate commercial and for-hire recreational fishers for any losses directly arising from the project, for example.

The ROD represents the final step in the National Environmental Policy Act review process for the Empire Wind Construction and Operations Plan (COP). The lessee must still receive BOEM’s final COP approval as required by its Renewable Energy Regulation, and other required Federal and state authorizations. The COP approval represents the last major action by BOEM, and is scheduled for Feb. 21, 2024. As part of BOEM and BSEE’s regulations, the lessee cannot begin any construction on their lease (easement included) until after review of the Facility Design Report and Fabrication and Installation Report (FDR/FIR). 


New York City’s Offshore Wind Industry Grants To Promote Workforce Development And Environmental Justice

Earlier in 2023, Equinor and bp, together with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), awarded eight New York area organizations a total of $5 million in grants to provide local economic benefits that support sustainable growth, workforce development, empowerment of underserved communities, and climate justice in New York’s emerging offshore wind industry ecosystem.  

The new Offshore Wind Ecosystem Fund recognizes leading organizations working to create systemic change toward an equitable energy transition.  Applicants were chosen by a selection committee, comprised of representatives of the Sunset Park Task Force (SPTF), which advocates to maximize the economic potential and community links between Sunset Park residents and the waterfront, NYCEDC and Equinor. Recipients reflect stakeholders and geographies of critical need.   

The eight organizations and related programs chosen to be implemented are:   

  • City Growers at Brooklyn Grange Farm– Will enhance programming for the City Growers’ Green Ambassadors program and Sunday Open Houses and Family Farm Days, which provide environmental education for urban youth. 
  • Educational and Cultural Trust Fund of the Electrical Industry – A comprehensive program to recruit, educate, and train a diverse future workforce for New York’s offshore wind industry.  
  • Jewish Community Center of Staten Island– The “Creating Career Pathways in Offshore Wind” program is open to all Staten Island residents and will educate at least 3,000 children in grades K-12 and over 1,500 adults about wind energy.  
  • New York Academy of Sciences – Will support a variety of programming, including experiential learning of the offshore wind industry for public school students and support to residents of historically marginalized neighborhoods to enter and grow careers in the offshore wind industry. 
  • New York City District Council of Carpenters Apprenticeship Journeyman Retraining Educational & Industry Fund— Supports advanced training for skilled workers and apprentice recruitment from environmental justice communities that will join the pipeline for new jobs created by the offshore wind industry. 
  • Research Foundation of the City University of New York – The City University of New York Offshore Wind Advisory Network’s Bridge to Offshore Wind will offer an interactive instructional seminar about the region’s offshore wind industry. Focus will be on the maritime, electrical, construction and manufacturing, assembly, and supply chain subsectors. 
  • Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation (SBIDC) – The SBIDC’s Wind Connections initiative will advance an inclusive and diverse local supply chain for the offshore wind industry in New York while increasing awareness of and access to these opportunities among disadvantaged business enterprises. 
  • Uprose – Uprose’s Just Transition Worker Resource Initiative will connect members from historically marginalized waterfront communities in New York City to employment opportunities in the emerging green energy economy. 

Selection criteria for Ecosystem Fund grants focused on three key priorities:  (1) developing career pathways in the offshore wind ecosystem through job education and training; (2) support to directly impacted New Yorkers from historically marginalized and environmental justice areas by prioritizing access to workforce and business opportunities; and (3) advancing inclusive growth of the supply chain ecosystem by supporting local Minority-, Women- and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (M/WBE and SDVOB) and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE).  

“I congratulate all the grant recipients of the Offshore Wind Ecosystem Fund. This initiative helps recognize the incredible talent across New York by empowering underserved communities and supporting meaningful change and lasting opportunities in the city’s growing offshore wind ecosystem,” Equinor Renewables President Molly Morris said.

“We are proud to support these grant recipients, each of which can help ensure New York’s energy transition is equitable and inclusive,” said Joshua Weinstein, bp’s President of Offshore Wind Americas. “This fund unlocks key investments in the people and communities that have been historically marginalized, and it ensures more New Yorkers can benefit from opportunities in the growing American offshore wind industry.” 

Doreen M. Harris, President and CEO, NYSERDA said, “Clean energy is, and should continue to be, an investment in our communities – especially those historically underserved.  NYSERDA is proud to see Equinor and bp committing to community benefits by investing in climate equity, workforce development and environmental education through the Offshore Wind Ecosystem Fund.” 

“Initiatives like the Offshore Wind Ecosystem Fund help ensure that New York City leads with equity and innovation while establishing itself as a national hub for offshore wind,” said NYCEDC President & CEO Andrew Kimball. “NYCEDC congratulates the grant recipients who will provide crucial support for traditionally underrepresented communities and ensure that economic opportunity is equitable and inclusive for New Yorkers.” 

The Ecosystem Fund is designed to provide historically marginalized areas and communities in New York City with opportunities to benefit from the early stages of the offshore wind industry.  

One of the largest wind developers in the world, Equinor is leading the Ecosystem Fund initiative on behalf of its 50-50 joint venture with bp.  Together, the companies are developing the Empire Wind and Beacon Wind project, which, once completed, will provide enough renewable energy to potentially power nearly two million New York homes.

In addition to the Offshore Wind Ecosystem Fund, Equinor and bp have invested millions towards an equitable energy transition for New Yorkers through the Offshore Wind Innovation Hub and forthcoming Learning Center, all located in Sunset Park. The area is home to South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, the future hub of the offshore wind energy in New York. 


New York Offshore Wind Innovation Hub Announces Accelerator Program Inaugural Cohort

Also earlier this year, the New York Offshore Wind Innovation Hub announced the first round of start-up companies selected to receive support to develop innovative ideas designed to unleash the potential of offshore wind.  The six winners–chosen from a panel of eleven finalists participating in a live “shark tank” style pitch competition–participated in a six-month mentoring and business development program designed to prepare them to partner with major offshore wind developers, suppliers, and the larger offshore wind value chain.

Launched in January 2023 to help develop promising start-ups that drive new innovation in the offshore wind industry, the Offshore Wind Innovation Hub is led by Equinor and bp in collaboration with Urban Future Lab at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, and National Offshore Wind R&D Consortium. Supported by the NYCEDC, the New York City-based Innovation Hub seeks to advance an inclusive supply chain and accelerate New York’s local green economy.

Drawn from an initial pool of 49 global international applicants hailing from the US, Canada, UK, Europe, and Japan, the companies selected to participate in the NYC-based Year 1 Cohort include:

  1. Benchmark Labs Inc. – Turbine-specific weather forecasts to improve operational margins.
  2. Flucto – Using sensor, GPS, and camera data for offshore wind farm installations and increased precision.
  3. Heerema Engineering Solutions – Software tool to simulate the complete offshore construction process in an event simulator.
  4. OSC AS – Industrial metaverse simulation for de-risking and cost-cutting offshore wind farm planning.
  5. RCAM Technologies – Low-cost, 3D printed, environmentally friendly concrete anchors for floating offshore wind.
  6. VINCI VR – Virtual reality for workforce safety and training.


Empire and Beacon Offshore Wind Lease Area Buoy Data Released

Two years of collected data, coupled with future near real-time data, is made available to the public through a historic agreement between New York State and the Empire and Beacon Wind projects.

Equinor and bp, in conjunction with NYSERDA, have publicly released the results of two years of detailed information on wave heights, currents, wind speeds, and wind directions information collected by its buoys south of Long Beach and east of Montauk, NY. The new publicly available data, available here, is released as the result of a path-breaking agreement between Empire Wind and Beacon Wind projects being developed by Equinor and bp through their 50-50 strategic partnership, and NYSERDA.

The Beacon Wind data is now being publicly shared in near real-time, allowing groups including local fishermen, mariners, oceanographic researchers, and the United States Coast Guard to access greater visibility into marine conditions and patterns in the waters off Long Island.

Surface data is provided by Met Ocean and floating Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) buoys, which complements data on underwater conditions gathered from buoys located on the seabed floor. 

The Empire Wind and Beacon Wind projects placed buoys in each of their respective lease areas off the New York coast. The data is being made publicly available as part of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observing System (MARACOOS) OceansMap, a framework developed jointly by the firm RPS and MARACOOS.

“We are excited to share this important and valuable data set. The Empire Wind and Beacon Wind project teams have relied on it to inform planning efforts like foundation design, construction schedules, and estimated transit times to and from our wind farms during operations. We believe sharing this data benefits the public by enhancing knowledge about our ocean resources, while demonstrating Equinor’s commitment to transparency in our project development activities. RPS and MARACOOS have been tremendous partners in helping to deliver the data in a way that can be easily accessed by the public,” said Scott Lundin, Director of Permitting for Equinor Wind US. 

“Data availability is essential for the environmentally responsible and cost-effective development of offshore wind, and data sharing has been a cornerstone of New York’s offshore wind strategy,” NYSERDA Director of Offshore Wind Greg Lampman said. “The availability of this important data will enhance knowledge of metocean conditions in the region, helping to ensure the safe and efficient design and operation of Empire Wind and Beacon Wind, while also supporting other academic research activities in the region.”

The release of this new dataset—and sharing of the data going forward—complements Equinor’s other initiatives to prioritize transparency and knowledge sharing as it develops the Empire and Beacon Wind projects. 

In September 2022, the Empire Wind project announced a continuing partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) to track whales in the Empire Wind lease area, and to provide that data to the public in near real time through the WCS website and at a kiosk located at the New York Aquarium in Coney Island, New York.

The Beacon Wind buoys will continue to produce data until November 2023.  The Empire Wind buoys’ data is from 2018 through 2022 when the buoys were brought back to shore.