By Hank Russell
Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine joined other elected officials, labor and environmental leaders and local civic associations at a special press conference at Smith Point on March 20 to announce that he will enter into a Town Community Agreement with the county. Under the agreement, Brookhaven Town and Suffolk County will receive wind-powered energy from the Sunrise Wind project — a joint venture between the Danish offshore wind company Ørsted and Eversource, a Hartford, Connecticut-based energy provider.
As a result of the agreement, an 880-megawatt wind farm will be constructed 30 miles off the Montauk coast, with a 124-mile cable running underwater, beneath Smith Point County Park and connecting with the existing grid in Holbrook. The project is expected to power 600,000 homes.
“Today is a historic day,” Romaine said. “Today, we get to move to the next generation — away from fossil fuel that is threatening our climate, away from polluting to clean, free, renewable energy. It’s so important for the future, our children, our grandchildren and beyond. Today, we move in a different direction.”
The Sunrise Wind project, Romaine said, “will create a new paradigm, in terms of energy for this island and this nation. We move today to deliver energy to ensure that our future can be one that we can survive. Climate change and rising sea levels will not end us. Today, we stake out a new direction for this country; I could not be more pleased.”
He also said this project will not only create over 2,000 jobs, but provide tax revenue for the town. The agreement calls for Sunrise Wind to pay $169.9 million over the next 25 years. That includes $28 million in PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) payments and $5 million to build a Tri-Hamlet Park and other local community projects.
Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico called this day “a joyous day” because everyone in attendance “had a part of this” in making the project a reality. “We’ll all leave a legacy. Those of us in public office have the ability to shape the course of history without actions. … It was incumbent on [the Brookhaven town board] to do what is right and, at times, that’s not easy.”
County Executive Steve Bellone thanked Romaine “for making this day possible” and Governor Kathy Hochul for “driving that change” to clean energy. He noted that parts of Long Island were greatly affected by Superstorm Sandy and that the region “is greatly at risk of climate change as anywhere else in our nation.”
Bellone added this project will result in long-term employment opportunities. He listed the benefits of this project, including a national wind training center at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus; research and development partnerships with SUNY-Stony Brook and SUNY-Farmingdale; setting Port Jefferson as the home port for a 260-foot service operation vessel to be used with the project; and 100 new long-term jobs at an operations and maintenance hub in East Setauket.
“We are not just going to have jobs, we are going to have careers here for years and decades to come,” Bellone said, adding this agreement will make Suffolk “the epicenter of the wind industry in the U.S.”
Doreen Harris, President and CEO of the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA), said the agreement has “a unique value proposition to offer,” and projects such as Sunrise Wind are “going to be advanced … with union participation, family-sustaining wages and building this industry, which is bringing tens of thousands of jobs to our state.”
Matthew Aracich, president of the Nassau-Suffolk Building Trades Council, said, “These jobs were created by people with right minds, by people who had the initiative to say, ‘I want to make things better, not just for today but for those who live here beyond.’ We want to make an opportunity for people who want to work, live and stay here and these are the programs and opportunities that will go on for decades.”
Former Mastic Village Mayor Maura Spery suggested setting up an education center at Tri-Hamlet Park so people can learn about the importance of green energy. “We have to educate our students, our youth, and the public as a whole on the importance of this green technology.”
Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said this agreement was not only a win for the environment, but for political partisanship. “They put politics aside, they put aside disagreements and they realized that climate change is an ethical and moral obligation and put out a path forward.”
“Clean air and clean water are not partisan issues,” added New York League of Conservation Voters President Julie Tighe. “Everyone is coming together because we know this is a promise that we need to keep to our communities.”
Esposito called the collaboration among these groups “like none other and actually historic,” because everyone in attendance was “rowing the boat in the same direction for a safer, cleaner and better Long Island. We hope to leave that legacy as soon as we can.”