LIPA Declines to Consider Proposed Wind Farm Off Long Island

A $1 billion wind farm proposed to be built in the waters off Long Island failed to appear in a resolution voted on today by the Long Island Power Authority’s Board of Trustees, despite the plan enjoying the support of 16 out of 22 Long Island's Assembly members. The so-called Deepwater ONE facility, which could provide up to 210 megawatts of power for Long Island, was to be located 30 miles east of Montauk and not visible from the shoreline.

LIPA's Board did vote to approve 11 new solar power projects, which will collectively produce around 122 megawatts of power—far short of its 280-megawatt request for renewable energy proposals, which came out of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s restructuring plan for the mismanaged authority in 2013. (On New Year’s Day, 2014, management of LIPA was transferred to the Public Service Enterprise Group, the operator of New Jersey’s largest utility.)

Had the proposed wind farm been included, LIPA’s 280-megawatt goal would have been exceeded, but the authority instead put out a second request for proposal for the remaining 160 megawatts, which may take another 18 months to process.

Kim Teplitzky, a spokeswoman for the Sierra Club who was present at the vote, said she is not sure what today's outcome means for the future of the wind power project, which would be built and owned by the Rhode Island-based company Deepwater Wind.

“It’s hard to say because 160 [megawatts] probably isn’t big enough for an offshore wind contract, so now the path is really unclear,” said Teplitzky in a text message. “Apparently they might expand the 160 at some point, based on whisperings in the room. All unclear though.”

Teplitzky said the board cited the wind farm’s potential cost to electric customers when asked why it did not include it in its resolution. However, according to a recent Stony Brook University study, “Offshore wind has essentially no impact to residential and commercial ratepayers.”

As City & State reported back in October, more so than solar power, wind is considered a large-scale renewable in New York, with the capacity to generate significant energy on a regional level. The largest wind farm in the state, Maple Ridge Wind Farm, has a 321-megawatt capacity, while the largest solar installation, the Long Island Solar Farm, is only 32 megawatts. (A typical coal-fired plant generates around 500 megawatts.)

Advocates argue that an offshore wind farm would help keep energy prices stable on Long Island, pointing out that since 70 percent of the Island's power currently comes from gas—a commodity subject to market volatility—customers are vulnerable to unpredictable price spikes.

Over 1,700 megawatts of wind power have been brought online during the life of New York’s decade-old Renewable Portfolio Standard program, which is due to sunset in 2015. Over 300 megawatts of solar have been installed since Cuomo’s NY-Sun program began in 2012, but that number is projected to increase to 3,500 megawatts over the next ten years. The state has yet to propose a new wind strategy comparable to the impressive scope and focus of NY-Sun.

Recently, Newsday's editorial board called on LIPA to “hold off” on the Deepwater ONE project, writing, “Long Island has enough power generation to meet demand even at peak times until at least 2020.”

The Sierra Club released this statement in response to LIPA's decision today: “Failing to fulfill this promise means we will continue to fall behind as other states embrace the economic and public health benefits of investing in offshore wind. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Long Island knows first-hand that we need a serious commitment—not a half effort—to combatting climate change.”