LIPA approves nation’s largest offshore wind farm

Coming soon: The Long Island Power Authority has approved the nation's largest ocean-based wind farm for Long Island waters.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Thar she blows.

The Long Island Power Authority Board of Trustees has voted to approve the nation’s largest offshore wind farm in Long Island waters.

As proposed by Rhode Island-based Deepwater Wind, the 90-megawatt South Fork Wind Farm – also New York State’s first offshore wind energy-harvesting operation – will be located 30 miles southeast of Montauk. The farm, which officials have repeatedly asserted will be out of sight of Long Island’s beaches, will include as many as 15 turbines (each standing 600 feet high) and should be providing power to Island homes (via a 50-mile transmission cable) within five years, if all goes according to Deepwater’s plan.

Ultimately, the South Fork Wind Farm should provide enough clean, renewable electricity to power 50,000 homes, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

Cuomo, who during his State of the State tour earlier this month called on the LIPA trustees to greenlight the Deepwater Wind project, called the approval a “bold action” that strengthens Albany’s “unprecedented commitment to offshore wind, as well as our ambitious long-term energy goal of supplying half of all electricity from renewable sources by 2030.”

“New York leads the nation in pioneering clean-energy innovation,” Cuomo said Wednesday afternoon. “This project will not only provide a new, reliable source of clean energy, but will also create high-paying jobs, continue our efforts to combat climate change and help preserve our environment for current and future generations of New Yorkers.”

The LIPA trustees’ vote follows the authority’s year-long vetting of private-sector clean-energy proposals, with Cuomo’s target of 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind-generated electricity by 2013 well in mind. Board members on Wednesday approved a 20-year pay-for-performance power-purchase agreement with Deepwater Wind.

Clint Plummer, Deepwater Wind’s vice president of economic development, did not return a call from Innovate LI Wednesday afternoon and the company issued no immediate statement.

But regional environmentalists were elated by the news that the leading wave of the nation’s ocean energy-harvesting effort was rolling into Long Island waters. Heather Leibowitz, director of New York City-based environmental watchdog Environment New York, called the Deepwater Wind project “momentous.”

“Accelerating our transition to pollution-free energy sources means cleaner air for families, less global-warming pollution, more stable electricity bills and a stronger economy,” Leibowitz said in a statement.

Sierra Club New York applauds Cuomo and LIPA’s “visionary leadership,” according to Senior Representative Lisa Dix, while Renewable Energy Long Island Executive Director Gordian Raacke noted “a bold step for renewable energy on Long Island and the beginning of an offshore-wind industry in the State of New York and the country.”

Over at the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, “we are definitely celebrating,” according to Executive Director Adrienne Esposito.

“This vote is the proverbial fork in the road,” Esposito said Wednesday. “One energy option was an additional fossil-fuel power plant, the other choice clean, renewable wind energy.

“LIPA made the right choice.”

The approval also sets a positive tone for future large-scale renewable-energy projects on Long Island and around the state, she added – welcome news to observers worried that Washington may no longer lead the nation down a clean-energy path.

“It paves the path forward for a renewable future that brings us a resurgence of hope that our nation can be a leader in the fight against climate change,” Esposito said.

Long Island Association President and CEO Kevin Law, who co-chairs the Island chapter in Albany’s Regional Economic Development Council system, called the Deepwater Wind approval “exciting news for Long Island.”

“Our region continues to diversify its energy supply and build a clean-energy economy,” Law said.

In addition to pleasing environmentalists and marking a big step toward Cuomo’s ambitions to power 1.25 million New York homes with renewable energy within 13 years, the South Fork Wind Farm is the largest offshore wind-harvesting operation ever approved for United States waters – for the moment.

Deepwater Wind, which cranked up the nation’s first ocean-based wind farm in December, is currently pitching a 120-megawatt farm off the Maryland coast.


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