New York’s first offshore wind hub to be built with union labor

A single wind turbine stands above the sea.
A wind turbine at the South Fork Wind Farm in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Long Island, New York, on December 7th, 2023. | Photo by Steve Pfost / Newsday RM via Getty Images

Labor groups inked a first-of-its-kind deal to support local hiring and union jobs with the developer of New York’s first offshore wind port. It’s an agreement for the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, envisioned as a crucial onshore staging area for some of America’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farms.

The US gets very little electricity from offshore wind today, even though the resource has the potential to meet up to a quarter of the nation’s power needs by 2050. The very first set of offshore wind farms are being built off the east coast, a key part of the Biden administration’s efforts to transition the country to clean energy.

Policymakers say good jobs are another pillar of that transition. And they hope this new agreement sets a precedent for that, even as the burgeoning offshore wind industry tries to overcome recent setbacks.

“I’m so proud of the signing of this agreement because this is what should happen throughout New York with future agreements and throughout the country as well — good-paying labor jobs,” Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said during a signing ceremony held in New York City yesterday.

The plan is to make over the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal into a port facility dedicated to offshore wind, where turbine components can be staged and assembled before being brought out to sea. It’ll also connect New York City to Empire Wind 1, one of the nation’s first large-scale wind farms to be built around 15 miles off the coast of Long Island. The terminal will host a substation for Empire Wind 1 and serve as a home base for maintenance work. Empire Wind 1 is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2027, and construction at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal could start as early as next week.

“Equinor’s Empire Wind is a critical project for the state of New York, and the redevelopment of the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal is the linchpin for offshore wind’s potential to create jobs and supply chain investments throughout the state and the region,” Christopher Erikson, business manager at Local Union No. 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (Local 3, IBEW), said at the event.

Equinor declined to share the full text of the agreement, but it’s supposed to lead to 1,000 union construction jobs at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal and several hundred long-term jobs at the site once construction at the port is complete. It includes a requirement to prioritize hiring locally, particularly veterans and residents of public housing and the surrounding neighborhood of Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

For years, advocates in Sunset Park have fought to redevelop the waterfront into a center for clean energy jobs. Equinor signed the agreement with the Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York and Vicinity, an organization encompassing 15 unions representing 100,000 workers. The company also says the agreement “promotes engagement” with minority-owned, women-owned, and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses.

Equinor has recently paused development on an even larger New York project called Empire Wind 2. Together, the Empire Wind 1 and 2 farms were expected to eventually generate enough power for more than a million homes (2 GW). In January, Equinor canceled its agreement with New York state for the planned 1,260MW Empire Wind 2 project, citing “changed economic circumstances on an industry-wide scale.” Projects across the US have been hit hard by inflation, high interest rates, and supply chain disruptions. Equinor will likely attempt to renegotiate a new agreement at higher rates to take all those factors into account.

“Local three and the New York building trades have been reliable allies in getting offshore wind industry off the ground despite a very challenging 2023,” Molly Morris, president of Equinor Renewables Americas, said during the signing ceremony held at Local 3, IBEW’s training center.

New York has the most robust offshore wind development pipeline in the nation, with five projects in the works. A project developed by Ørsted and Eversource called South Fork Wind started delivering electricity to Long Island from its first operational turbine in December, making it the first utility-scale wind farm to power up in federal waters.

Source: The Verge New York’s first offshore wind hub to be built with union labor