Victory - South Fork Wind Farm up and running!

by David Alicea

When I learned about climate change as a high school student, I quickly realized the community I lived in, Long Island, and the community my family was from, Puerto Rico, were uniquely at risk from rising sea levels and more frequent and intense storms. At the same time, a proposal for an offshore wind farm off the coast of Long Island had just been canceled, and I knew I needed to help build the political will to make climate solutions a reality.

That’s why in 2013, I jumped at the chance to become an organizer for the Sierra Club to advocate for offshore wind. Ten years later -- this past December 2023 -- I found myself driving out on Long Island’s North Fork to take a trip to see New York’s first offshore wind turbine in operation.

The South Fork Wind Farm is over 30 miles off Montauk Point, and as of yesterday, it is the first fully operational wind farm in the country. The electricity generated by South Fork will power over 70,000 homes and displace some of the dirty fossil fuels still powering our electrical grid. 

South Fork Wind Farm Turbine
South Fork Wind Farm;
Photo Credit David Alicea

As we arrived at the first turbine, there was no land in sight, just a vast ocean and a few bases for the other turbines still under construction. It was hard to get a sense of the scale with nothing to compare it against, but on this boat full of New Yorkers, there was a clear sense of pride. We’re a state known for building some big iconic things -- from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Empire State Building -- and this moment very much felt like we were at the start of a whole new chapter for New York and the county.  

On the three-and-a-half-hour boat trip out to the wind farm, I was joined by labor leaders, environmentalists, community leaders, and government officials to celebrate this important milestone. Environmentalists and local leaders alike are excited as this marks a major shift in the generation of electricity on Long Island and in NYC. Together, clean energy makes up less than three percent of the electric mix, and offshore wind is the best opportunity we have to cut pollution from outdated fossil fuel plants. Long Island’s East End has faced the challenge of increased electric demand, and offshore wind is the only alternative to expensive transmission lines and diesel generators. This reality has driven community support for clean energy, with the Town of East Hampton being one of the first municipalities in the country in 2014 to commit to transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.

Labor leaders and rank-and-file workers have also been some of the most ardent champions for offshore wind in New York. For those who live on Long Island, they are seeing rising sea levels on their doorsteps, and they have been able to work with offshore wind developers to secure a project labor agreement that has ensured local, family-supporting jobs.

Club Leaders at South Fork Wind Farm
Sierra Club Leaders
​​​Jason Dragseth & David Alicea
South Fork Wind Farm
Photo Credit David Alicea

The South Fork Wind Project, the first wind project in the US in federal waters, is 138 megawatts. To put that in perspective, new wind projects proposed in New York are now over 1,000 megawatts and estimates say we will need to build 20,000 megawatts by 2050 to meet our state’s climate targets. There is still a long way to go but every new wind project built in New York will allow us to retire our outdated gas-fired power plants and help the communities that live near them breathe a little easier. That’s why we must make sure the responsibly-sited projects currently proposed are constructed and that New York continues to move toward meeting our clean energy goal.

Together with your help, we can make our clean energy future a reality. Send a message to Governor Hochul to let her know you support offshore wind and clean energy in New York!