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Dec 17, 2014 1:56 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

LIPA Rejects Proposed Wind Farm Off Montauk

Dec 23, 2014 3:00 PM

A proposed wind farm 30 miles off the coast of Montauk will not yet move forward, the Long Island Power Authority’s board of trustees decided on Wednesday, December 17.

LIPA has said it wants to add 280 megawatts of renewable energy to the utility’s resources, but a resolution at the end of last week’s board meeting noted only that several solar energy firms would supply power totaling 122 megawatts of renewable energy for Long Island. The resolution did not include a proposal for an offshore wind project, nor a solar energy system at East Hampton Airport—much to the disappointment of many advocates of green energy.

Instead, the board approved another request for proposals for the remaining 160 megawatts, which likely won’t be complete for another 18 months, according to the Sierra Club, a national organization that advocates for renewable energy and has 60,000 members in New York State.

“This delay signals that the LIPA board, PSEG Long Island and the governor were not serious about their commitment and are not going to uphold their commitment,” said Lisa Dix, the senior New York representative for the Sierra Club. “Their position is unacceptable. Long Islanders have been waiting for a really long time to have this promise be fulfilled. Delaying it means we’re not going to get the needed environmental benefits of renewable energy we need now.”

Deepwater Wind, which is currently constructing the first offshore wind energy project in the United States—off Block Island—had submitted a proposal in March of this year to add 35 wind turbines to supply power to 150,000 homes on Long Island.

The wind turbines, each standing some 600 feet above the water, were planned to be constructed about 30 miles east of Montauk and 16 miles off the shore of Martha’s Vineyard. They would not have been visible from Long Island, but would have been connected to a local power substation by a transmission cable running 6 feet beneath the sea floor and then beneath roadways where it came ashore.

Jeffrey Grybowski, the CEO of Deepwater Wind, on Wednesday afternoon said the company believes that LIPA’s analysis of the need for wind energy was “seriously flawed.”

“With today’s decision, LIPA/PSEG missed an opportunity to build a 21st-century energy supply for Long Island and a new local industry employing hundreds for years to come,” he said. “Just this week, in fact, New York’s flagship state university at Stony Brook issued a report finding that a new offshore wind farm would have no impact on ratepayer bills. Long Islanders suffer from some of the highest energy costs in the Northeast, and the region trails the rest of New York State in renewables. Today’s decision by LIPA/PSEG does little to prepare Long Island for the future energy needs, save ratepayers money, or put Long Island laborers back to work.”

Deepwater Wind would not comment further on what its plan is going forward.

LIPA’s chief executive officer, John McMahon, during the board meeting last week said the utility would create 280 megawatts of renewable energy in two segments.

“This is not the end point, this is beginning point,” he said. “We’re seeking to develop another program for renewable energy.”

He said LIPA will immediately contract with solar developers for 122.1 megawatts on Long Island, and follow that with a 160-megawatt request for proposals.

One of the reasons LIPA went forward with the solar projects and didn’t move on the wind farm was its belief that there are more jobs in solar energy.

“We believe on a per-megawatt basis there are more jobs, higher employment with respect to solar than the fabrication of wind turbines on Long Island,” Mr. McMahon said. “There’s an economic benefit on a megawatt-to-megawatt basis.”

The Press has filed a Freedom of Information Law request for that information.

A Stony Brook University study released on November 25 states that each offshore wind farm can produce hundreds of Long Island-based jobs and millions of dollars for the local economy. For example, a single offshore wind farm of 250 megawatts built off the coast of Long Island can create 2,864 full-time equivalent jobs on Long Island, or about 11 per megawatt, as well as approximately $645 million in local economic output, according to the study.

But local advocates, like Gordian Raacke, the executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island in East Hampton, said it is a major disappointment that the state did not stick to its word to reduce carbon emissions as soon as possible, and include East Hampton in that mix.

“The fact that they did not select a project for a total of 280 megawatts means LIPA and the governor and PSEG Long Island reneged on the promise made to Long Islanders to go forward with any procurement process under way when the PSEG takeover happened last year,” he said. “It’s bad news for Long Island and bad news for the East End that no project was selected.”

Mr. Raacke, who is on the East Hampton Town Energy Sustainability Committee, said that the town had been counting on LIPA to help reach East Hampton’s goal of meeting 100 percent of the community’s electricity consumption with renewable energy sources by 2020 and to generate enough renewable energy to at least offset energy used for transportation and heating, as well, by 2030.

“Now we have to figure out a way how to do it without LIPA and PSEG Long Island’s help,” he said. “LIPA said it would issue another request for proposals to complete its integrated resources plan, which can take at least a year or longer, and at the end of that, there will yet be another request for proposals for the remaining 160 megawatts. At that point, it’s a couple of years away now by the time those proposals come in.”

He said this isn’t the first time LIPA has “kicked the can down the road.” Ten years ago, LIPA had selected an offshore wind project for Jones Beach and then “changed its mind” and didn’t go forward with it, he said. Then, in 2011 or 2010, LIPA sent out another request for proposals for an offshore wind farm, but rejected the proposals. It then put out another request for proposals, which resulted in the rejection of the wind farm last week.

“They promised they would issue a request for proposals for renewables to all environmental groups, and here we are,” Mr. Raacke said. “They did the same thing again.”

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. last week blasted LIPA for not moving on with a wind farm.

“Our existing electricity grid is operating at its limits and, given our population density and our commitment to conservation, building any new energy infrastructure here is difficult,” he said. “While I do support the expansion of renewable energy sources, including solar arrays, LIPA must start broadening their renewable portfolio. Unless we begin to invest in other alternative renewable energy infrastructure, LIPA is going to continue to rely on environmentally harmful energy production.”

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Was the decision made on the merits, or did the solar industry do a better job of "lobbying" them?
By Duckbornandraised (182), Eastport on Dec 17, 14 5:56 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Preliator Lives (398), Obamavillie on Dec 18, 14 6:45 AM
With respect to Shaye Weaver, this piece states several factors in favor of the offshore wind project, but doesn't name any of LIPA's reasons for rejecting it. Could that be because LiPA didn't state any such reasons? Could that be because there aren't any reasons that will bear scrutiny?
By Turkey Bridge (1945), Quiogue on Dec 20, 14 1:11 PM
hard to imagine the sierra club was a proponent of a wind farm off jones beach.
I also find it difficult to agree with sierra club on a wind farm off Montauk. out of sight out of mind?
what do we need unlimited power for? so the rechlers and anna throne-holst and the beechwood organization and joe Farrell and Robert morrow and jon sirkin and vesta development and Continental Pinewood Development and Discovery Land Companies and The GOC of the Hamptons and so on and so on can build ...more
By david h (405), southampton on Dec 29, 14 10:12 AM
1 member liked this comment