Thiele and Orsted Make Amends
Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who withdrew his support for the proposed South Fork Wind Farm last month citing problems including what he called the developer’s “bait and switch” tactics, issued a statement on Monday commenting on an apology he had received from that developer, Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind.
Mr. Thiele had complained that the original developer, Deepwater Wind, was now part of a foreign company: Orsted, Denmark’s largest energy company and the world’s largest offshore wind developer, acquired Deepwater Wind in November. That, and the company’s announcement that the wind farm would be capable of producing 130 megawatts of electricity, rather than the initial plan of 90 megawatts, represented “the classic ‘bait and switch,’ ” Mr. Thiele said. (The change in capacity resulted from advances in turbine technology subsequent to the wind farm’s initial blueprint.) He further cited a lack of communication on Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind’s part.
In his statement on Monday, he reiterated his consistent support for renewable energy and his long leadership on environmental issues, citing a 100-percent score from Environmental Advocates of New York and the New York State League of Conservation Voters. But, he said, “the truth is Deepwater has not always been transparent or open about its project, either with the community at large or with elected officials. They have acknowledged that by the letter they have sent to me this past Friday.”
“When I sought a meeting to discuss their failures to be open and transparent, my requests were ignored by Deepwater representatives, despite the fact that I had been a vocal advocate for their project moving forward so that we all could assess the merits,” Mr. Thiele said. “I have always responded to their requests to meet. They misled the media about all of this.”
The letter from Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind, signed by its co-chief executive officers, Jeffrey Grybowski and Thomas Brostrom, said, in part, “We recognize that our communication with your office has not been up to the standards we expect from our team and for that we apologize.” They went on to pledge “our personal commitment to redoubling our efforts to ensure that you and your constituents are kept informed and up-to-date on our plans for the South Fork Wind Farm and our other initiatives related to the project going forward.”
Clint Plummer, the company’s head of market strategies and new projects, said on Monday that “Assemblyman Thiele has been a great champion of renewable energy and offshore wind, and particularly our projects, over a relatively long period. We have historically enjoyed a great relationship with him. We recognize there may have been some missteps in the past. As we move forward holding ourselves to the highest standard, we look forward to rebuilding the relationship in a trust-based way.”
Orsted, in a partnership with Eversource, New England’s largest energy company, is one of several participants in the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s offshore wind energy solicitation, through which the state plans to procure 800 megawatts of offshore wind.
“We will be required to trust these companies with our ocean, our beaches, and our quality of life,” Mr. Thiele said of the developers responding to the authority’s solicitation, “which we have invested decades of effort and millions of dollars to protect. I think it is imperative that any successful proposer not only have the best energy project, but also be able to prove to the community that they possess the proven corporate ethics to ensure that they will be open, honest, and transparent about all aspects of their proposal with the public.”