BY Debbie Tuma, special to the News
Photo from Winergy Power’s Web site of what the company’s proposed 445-foot wind turbines would look like from Orient Point County Park.
The nation’s first offshore wind farm is being proposed for the waters off Orient Point, in hopes of powering 4,000 homes with alternative energy.
But while local officials applaud the benefits of this new technology, some worry about its proposed location in the path of endangered migratory birds.
Winergy Power LLC, an energy company based in Hauppauge, is looking to build three 445-foot turbine towers, about 21/2 miles off Orient Point, southeast of Plum Island.
Dennis Quaranta, president of Winergy, said the proposed $30 million research project would be the first in the U.S. and, if it proves successful, his firm would seek to build larger wind farms from Rhode Island to Delaware, 15 to 20 miles offshore.
“By building this first model wind farm off Orient Point, we would hope to let people see how we could use this renewable source of energy as an alternative to fossil fuels, like they have been doing successfully with 400 wind turbines in other parts of the world,” said Quaranta.
He also owns the rights to a fish farm, which he said would start up next spring, at this “dual-purpose site.”
He said the proposed turbines would be in water 85 to 150 feet deep. Each turbine would have three rotating blades measuring about 300 feet from tip to tip, and they would rotate slowly – about 12 to 14 revolutions per minute.
Because the proposed turbines would be in state waters, Winergy has to file a permit application with the New York State Department of State, which would assume the lead role in the review process.
The company also has filed a response to questions posed by Southold Town’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program about the project’s possible impact.
If the state and Town of Southold agree to the plans, Winergy would need permits from the Army Corps of Engineers to build the turbines.
Quaranta said his research project would last 10 years, and power generated during this period would be supplied via the Long Island Power Authority grid to purchasers.
At a recent meeting of the Southold Town Board, Supervisor Scott Russell said that while alternative energy is an important goal, he was concerned about this particular site being situated in a “significant migratory bird area.”
He said since his town has no regulatory authority in state waters, he is concerned about protecting the birds.
Maureen Cullinane, president of the North Fork Audubon Society and a resident of Orient, said although her group supports alternative energy sources, “Our main concern is that these turbines would be right opposite the roseate tern colony, on Great Gull Island, which is the first place these migrating birds go, after traveling here from Brazil and Venezuela. And they’re exhausted and disoriented.
“This is the only confirmed colony where the nesting site is growing,” Cullinane added, “and it has been under observation since 1966 by the American Museum of Natural History and the Linnaean Ornithological Society.”
Quaranta said his company has done studies on three seasons of bird migrations so far at this site, and the largest number of birds they recorded flying in one day was 17.
He said the birds also flew closer to the water – well below the turbine blades – which “rotate so slowly, that the birds can probably see them.”
“Our whole purpose is research and development, and we would monitor this site each day to make sure there was no negative impact on wildlife,” he said.
“If birds were affected, we would work to fix the problem.”
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