Several tidal energy initiatives to be located near an already proposed wind-turbine pilot project in the waters off the North Fork are prompting calls for a go-slow approach as local political and financial interests work to grasp the scope of the projects.
As reported in Newsday last week, Highland, N.Y.-based Natural Currents Energy Services has filed a permit with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a 136-square-mile tidal energy project off Orient Point. Another company, Verdant Power, which is near to testing tidal turbines in the East River, has filed for two permits for similar projects in Plum Gut and off Fishers Island.
“This is catching all of us completely off guard,” Assemb. Marc Alessi (D-Manor Park) said of the projects representing more than 150 square miles of Long Island Sound. “Complete transparency for projects of this sort is of the utmost importance.”
M-1 Energy Partners, a tidal energy start-up in Calverton that has designs on testing a system in the Sound, is calling for legislation to regulate the projects.
“It is M-1’s firm position that before any lands/seas pass out of the public domain into private hands, there should be legislation designating the area as a Renewable Energy Zone, encouraging careful investigation,” Robert Ott, a partner in the firm, wrote in an e-mail. Ott said it was too early to say how many of the 20-by-40-foot platforms M-1 would propose for a larger energy project beyond the pilot.
Suffolk Legis. Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon) said he plans to ask representatives of the tidal energy companies to explain their plans to the legislature. “We have to go slowly and take a look at this for what it is,” Horsley said. “We don’t want our fishing spots to become chum spots.”
Roger Bason, president of Tidal Energy, said this week that the project, which would begin after careful environmental studies, would entail affixing potentially hundreds of “propeller” turbines by cable to the sea bottom. “We’re confident we have one of the best sites in North America,” Bason said, adding he had several “potential” investors in this “very early state” project.
The turbines “would be at least 30 feet below the surface in ways that don’t interfere with navigation,” Bason said.
What about commercial and recreational fishing?
“That’s another issue,” Bason, a Merrick native, said. “There may be a zone in which we can freely work without interference with these issues … The fish issues are not going to be showstoppers in my view.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said the projects, “at first glance, seem less disconcerting than Broadwater,” the liquid natural gas platform proposed for the Sound. But he added, “We still need more details in terms of how this plan would pan out.”
Meanwhile, KeySpan Corp. has been quietly hedging its bets in renewable energy projects, including reviewing a possible wind-farm investment and tidal turbines in local waters.
In presentations in recent weeks, David Manning, KeySpan’s executive vice president of corporate affairs and chief environmental officer, has acknowledged the utility is reviewing wind-turbine initiatives by Winergy Power Llc, a Hauppauge-based company with designs on deep-water wind farms along the East Coast. Winergy plans a $27-million test installation of three 445-foot turbines 2 1/2 miles off Orient Point, pending approvals.
Winergy expects to begin its public comment stage later this month and have the three-turbine wind project operating in 2008 or 2009, said Dennis Quaranta, company president. Winergy plans hundreds more turbines if the pilot is successful, and it already has backing from JPMorgan Partners, an equity arm of the firm, a JPMorgan spokeswoman confirmed.
“If KeySpan likes it, we’d be very, very happy to partner up with them,” Quaranta said. The project is unrelated to a proposed Long Island Power Authority wind farm off Jones Beach on the South Shore.
Manning also said KeySpan is investing “north of $500,000” in the Verdant Power project that will soon place tidal energy turbines in the East River, Manning said.
The Brooklyn-based utility brings not only deep pockets to renewable energy projects, Manning said, but also expertise in community relations and in expediting local permits.
“We’re pretty skilled on the ground,” he said.
By Mark Harrington
Newsday Staff Writer
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