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LIPA Approves Power Purchase Agreement for Nation’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm

By SPRLAW

By: Ed Roggenkamp

On January 25, 2017, the Long Island Power Authority (“LIPA”) voted to approve a power purchase agreement (“PPA”) with Deepwater Wind for the South Fork wind farm, a proposed 90 megawatt (“MW”) offshore wind farm located approximately 30 miles southeast of Montauk. If constructed, the South Fork wind farm would be the largest in the nation. It would be connected to the Long Island grid by a subsea transmission cable, and the turbines would be far enough out to sea that they would not be visible from land.

Governor Cuomo had called on LIPA to approve the PPA in the Long Island edition of his 2017 State of the State speech, as part of New York’s goal of developing 2.4 gigawatts (“GW”) (2400 MW) of offshore wind power by 2030. Deepwater originally proposed construction of the South Fork wind farm in response to LIPA’s 2013 request for proposals for up to 280 MW of renewable energy generation.

The South Fork wind farm would be constructed in federal waters off of Rhode Island and Massachusetts leased by Deepwater Wind in a July 31, 2013 auction by the United States Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (“BOEM”). Deepwater has already submitted a Site Assessment Plan (“SAP”) for this lease area, which is under review by BOEM. Following approval of the SAP, Deepwater would begin a five-year site assessment term, and would be required to submit a Construction and Operations Plan six months before the end of the site assessment term.

According to LIPA documentation on the PPA approval, the South Fork farm is projected to begin commercial operation by December 1, 2022.

That timeline could be expedited by the White House’s January 24, 2017 Executive Order seeking to expedite certain high priority infrastructure projects identified by governors or federal agency heads and the Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The 2017 executive order appears to build on President Obama’s March 22, 2012 Executive Order seeking to improve and expedite environmental review and permitting for infrastructure projects, particularly identified “Projects of National or Regional Significance.” President Obama’s order specifically identified “renewable energy generation” as a category of infrastructure project meriting expedited permitting and environmental review, while President Trump’s order does not mention renewable energy, but does order expedited review for infrastructure projects “improving the U.S. electric grid.” This leaves open the possibility that the current administration will elect to identify the South Fork wind farm as a high priority infrastructure project, particularly if Governor Cuomo nominates the South Fork wind farm as such.

Deepwater Wind has conceived of the South Fork wind farm as the first phase of “Deepwater One,” a phased development of the lease area off of Rhode Island and Massachusetts that could ultimately include over 200 turbines generating more than 1 GW (1,000 MW) of electricity.

For more information on offshore wind issues and renewable energy development, contact Dan Chorost or Ed Roggenkamp.