New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s dream of making his state a carbon-free utopia has become a nightmare for some well-off residents of Long Island’s fabled Hamptons who want to save their beachfront mansions from an underground powerline connecting to Cuomo’s first offshore wind farm.
Residents of East Hampton’s Wainscott section are circulating a petition that would have their 350-year-old hamlet secede from the town, in a desperate effort to protect their pricey homes and beloved beach from Cuomo’s virtue-signaling wind project. The South Fork Wind Project’s 15 giant turbines are to be situated 35 miles off shore from Montauk Point. Electricity from the turbines would be transmitted to land through an undersea powerline that would be buried 30 feet below the beach before connecting with a substation four miles to the north.
South Fork’s developers, Danish energy giant Orsted and New England-based Eversource, claim the $2 billion project will generate enough electricity for 70,000 Long Island homes.
The New York Post (Jan. 23) reports that Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott want the wind farm’s cable to skirt their bucolic neighborhood and link to a mainland substation farther east in Amagansett.
Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott is not just any NIMBY group, mind you. Those signing the petition include billionaire Ronald Lauder, heir to a cosmetics fortune, Blackstone bigwig John Finley, marketing guru Faith Popcorn, Alexander Edlich, a senior partner at McKinsey & Co., and Henry Cornell, founder of Cornell Capital. These are not people used to taking no for an answer, and the Post reports they have raised nearly $1 million since the group’s founding in 2018. Some of that money has gone to high-powered PR firm Mercury Public Affairs in Manhattan.
Local officials have given the developers permission to begin road construction for the project, a move that has infuriated Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott, who called the action “illegal and reckless.”
“They are taking short cuts because the supervisor is afraid of Wainscott incorporating. We have sought to avoid litigation but the Town Board has made this inevitable and we will initiate litigation against any governmental body that fails to adhere to the letter and spirit of laws designed to protect the citizens of Wainscott,” Michael McKeon of Mercury Public Affairs told the Post.
The False Promise of Offshore Wind Power
Disrupting the lives of high rollers in the Hamptons is the least harm Cuomo’s wind project will do.
“Experience in Europe over the past decade demonstrates that the performance of offshore wind turbines degrades rapidly – on average 4.5 percent per year,” notes the Manhattan Institute’s Jonathan A. Lesser in a recent report, “Out to Sea: The Dismal Economics of Offshore Wind.”
Even though offshore wind blows more consistently than onshore wind, ocean-based turbines still operate at only 50 percent to 58 percent of their capacity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This means that, at best, the giant turbines perform over 40 percent below their capacity, requiring a backup source of power when the wind isn’t cooperating.
The Manhattan Institute’s Lesser notes that the rapid deterioration of offshore wind turbines means higher operating costs and reduced economic lifetimes. “As more offshore wind is integrated onto the bulk power grid, the cost of addressing wind power’s inherent intermittency will also increase, further increasing the costs borne by electricity consumers and requiring new gas-fired generating units to operate on standby or highly expensive battery systems,” he says.
Offshore wind’s alleged environmental benefits also turn out to be illusory. The raw materials needed to manufacture wind turbines far exceed those needed to manufacture and install combined life-cycle natural gas turbines. Of those raw materials, none are more important than rare earths, almost all of which are controlled by China, a country with an abysmal environmental record.
The well-heeled NIMBY crowd in the Hamptons has a far better case than it realizes.