LIPA Negotiating For Offshore Wind Power To Come To South Fork

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The Long Island Power Authority and Deepwater Wind hope to ink a contract for a wind farm south of Block Island that could power the entire South Fork and other parts of the East End by the end of the year.

Deepwater Wind, a Rhode Island-based wind energy company, and the power authority are in the midst of negotiations on the contract, which could supply Eastern Long Island with enough wind-generated energy to power about 50,000 homes, and could have it ready for approval by LIPA’s board of trustees in time for its December 20 meeting.

Officials from Deepwater and LIPA both declined to comment on the ongoing negotiations, but spokespeople for both confirmed that a contract is in the works and could be completed by the end of December.

“We are in discussions with LIPA on our proposal—the [90-megawatt] South Fork Wind Farm,” Deepwater spokeswoman Meaghan Whims said in an email message. “We hope to get to a final agreement by the end of the year.”

The LIPA board canceled a planned vote to authorize LIPA Chairman Thomas Falcone to begin negotiations with Deepwater on the proposed wind farm in July, after New York State officials asked them to hold off on moving forward on the plan until the state could release its pending “blueprint” for how wind planning should proceed.

The blueprint, released in September, made only general references to a 16,000-square-mile swath of the Atlantic in the New York Bight that the state plans to analyze more closely for wind-farm compatibility as part of a statewide wind-energy master plan expected next year.

After the blueprint was released, LIPA began negotiations with Deepwater without rescheduling the vote to authorize Mr. Falcone to proceed. The company now plans just a single full-board vote on the resultant contract.

The negotiations come as Deepwater prepares to start energy production from five turbines it has constructed just three miles off the Block Island coastline. The five 6-megawatt turbines, which are visible from Montauk on a clear day or night, are expected to come online as soon as next week and will be the first operational offshore wind turbines in the country. The five turbines will generate 30 megawatts of power for Block Island and Rhode Island, enough for about 12,000 homes.

The proposed second wind farm that would send power to the South Fork would be constructed about 15 miles southeast of Block Island and a little more than 30 miles from Montauk Point—about midway between Montauk and Martha’s Vineyard. While the Block Island turbines are visible from Montauk, Deepwater has said that the South Fork Wind Farm turbines would be over the horizon and not visible from land.

Deepwater Wind has leased more than 250 square miles of sea floor south of Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard from the federal government. The company has said the area could eventually host more than 100 turbines and generate a gigawatt of wind energy, enough for more than 750,000 homes.

The company originally planned to employ a total of 15 turbines, each generating 6 megawatts, as part of the South Fork proposal—but the company is now reportedly considering using a dozen 8-megawatt turbines instead.

According to preliminary plans that have been shared with local government officials, if the South Fork Wind Farm were constructed, Deepwater plans to bring the undersea power transmission cable from the turbines ashore somewhere in Napeague and run it underground to the Amagansett substation. More underground cables would connect the Amagansett and Buell Lane, East Hampton, substations.

The installation of the new underground transmission lines would be paid for by Deepwater Wind, and could carry an ancillary benefit of allowing PSEG to use the new conduits to relocate the current overhead transmission lines between the two stations, which have been the subject of strident objections and a lawsuit from resident groups.

Deepwater is also submitting a proposal for an even larger wind farm within its lease area as part of a request for proposals in a second phase of renewable energy sourcing from LIPA in January. That plan calls for 210 megawatts of renewable energy to feed central and eastern Suffolk County.

According to Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, a nonprofit advocate for the expansion of renewable power generation, LIPA has forecast a growing shortage of power on the East End as development expands and has set a goal of drawing half its new energy generation from renewable resources. The anticipated growing draw on the East End bucks a trend on the rest of Long Island, which is forecast to see shrinking energy demands as more energy efficiency is built into the grid, like lower energy appliances and fixtures and more energy-efficient buildings.

Mr. Raacke said that his group is planning to attend the December 20 LIPA board meeting to show support for the East End wind farm project.

“We’ll turn out a good number of people at that meeting and, hopefully, we can celebrate that day,” he said.

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