LIPA trustees postpone wind-farm vote

By GREGORY ZELLER //

The Long Island Power Authority has delayed a vote on a proposed turbine farm that would set a new high-water mark for U.S. offshore wind-energy projects.

LIPA trustees were expected to approve Wednesday the utility’s plans for a 90-megawatt, 15-turbine wind farm and to award the project to offshore developer Deepwater Wind, which is planning to flip the switch on a 30-megawatt, five-turbine farm off the coast of Rhode Island later this year.

The LIPA farm, to be situated 30 miles east of Montauk Point, could produce enough electricity to power roughly 50,000 Long Island homes and, if approved soon enough, could be up and running by 2022. The plan is part of an ambitious multi-state strategy to ultimately generate 1,000 MW of electricity with environmentally friendly wind farms off the coasts of New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

But late Tuesday, LIPA trustees abruptly postponed their Wednesday meeting, citing a request by the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority to hold off until Albany releases an “offshore-wind master plan” that further defines the state’s clean-energy standards.

The state is expected to unveil its wind-energy strategy within the next few weeks.

The Board of Trustees was also expected to announce Wednesday its selections of projects submitted to PSEG Long Island, which manages the regional grid for LIPA, to produce an additional 63 megawatts specifically for the Island’s South Fork.

There was no official word on when those RFP selections will be announced. LIPA said in a statement that it “expects to reschedule the meeting after the release of the NYSERDA off-shore wind blueprint.”

The delay takes some wind out of the sails of a project that was breezing toward history. Last week, LIPA CEO Thomas Falcone told the Associated Press the directors would approve the offshore wind plan – which would be the largest ever built in U.S. coastal waters – and name Deepwater Wind its contractor of choice.

The plan has also been endorsed by environmentalists and by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who’s set an ambitious goal of supplying 50 percent of New York’s electricity through renewable sources by 2030. Prior to the trustees’ postponement, Cuomo urged the LIPA board to approve the offshore plan, noting its environmental and economic advantages.

“Investing in New York’s clean-energy economy strengths our communities by providing access to clean, affordable power and good-quality green jobs,” Cuomo said. “This marks another opportunity for this state to lead the nation in creating a stronger, more resilient energy system and protecting the environment for future generations.”

Heather Leibowitz, director of citizen-based advocacy group Environment New York, called LIPA’s approval “key” to meeting Cuomo’s 2030 goals and “to putting the Empire State on a path toward an economy powered entirely by renewable energy.”

“Offshore wind needs to be a significant part of the energy mix,” Leibowitz said in a statement. “The 90 megawatts of energy produced off east Montauk will get us one step closer to this goal.

“Constructing the nation’s largest offshore wind-energy project is momentous and puts New York right where it should be – at the front of the pack.”

This is the second time the LIPA Board of Trustees has delayed a vote on the utility’s proposed offshore wind farm, which was originally on the agenda of board’s June 20 meeting.

Prior wind-farm proposals have fallen short of LIPA’s high-water ambitions, including a previous pitch by Deepwater Wind. Citing estimated construction and operational costs of close to $1.5 billion, LIPA trustees in 2014 rejected a Deepwater Wind proposal to construct 35 turbines 30 miles east of Montauk and 16 miles southwest of Martha’s Vineyard – a plan that, according to Deepwater, could have powered 150,000 Long Island homes.

 


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