PROVIDENCE —The federal government on Wednesday signed off on the South Fork wind farm, which will be built off Rhode Island’s coast and provide power to New York.
The South Fork wind farm is a 12-turbine, 130-megawatt project, about 19 miles southeast of Rhode Island and 35 miles east the easternmost tip of Long Island. The Department of the Interior approval clears the way for construction and operation of the site.
The Interior Department said the project would create about 340 jobs and provide enough power for about 70,000 homes. As the name implies, the power generated by the turbines would be delivered to Long Island’s south fork.
“We have no time to waste in cultivating and investing in a clean energy economy that can sustain us for generations,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in a news release.
The project is a 50/50 split between Ørsted and the utility Eversource. Ørsted’s US headquarters are split between Providence and Boston, and though it’s global headquarters is in Denmark, it employs some 250 people in the US.
Regulators in the Interior Department and the Department of Commerce signed off on what’s called a record of decision Wednesday. The developer still has to file a facility design report and a fabrication and installation report before going ahead with construction, but the Interior Department described the deal as approved, and those did not seem like significant hurdles: Ørsted said construction was expected to begin in the weeks and months ahead.
Because it’s off the coast of Rhode Island, the project also needed to go through Rhode Island regulators. Earlier this year, the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council approved the project through what’s called a consistency concurrence, essentially agreeing that it was consistent with the coastal policies in the Ocean State. The approval came despite opposition from some environmental groups and fishing interests, which said its location in Cox Ledge would harm species like the Atlantic cod.
The developers agreed to pay $5.2 million to help Rhode Island fishermen recoup their losses from the project under the deal worked out here. Some fishing interest groups said that wasn’t enough.
The Rhode Island Fishermen’s Advisory Board, a group of representatives from the fishing industry, said Wednesday that it maintained its opposition to the project, calling the approval process “broken.”
“Through the state review process, the fishing industry was always meant to provide expert advice on impacts to its stakeholders,” the group said in an emailed statement. “In this case, though, the advice was ignored. Whether that process is viable remains to be seen.”
South Fork is now the second major offshore wind project approved by the US government, after Vineyard Wind. The Block Island wind farm didn’t need to go through this same process.
Vineyard Wind 1, a 62-turbine project about 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, got approval in July. Haaland was in Massachusetts earlier this month for the groundbreaking on that project, which will power 400,000 homes and businesses in Massachusetts annually, according to the developers. Two cables will make landfall at Covell’s Beach in Barnstable.