The Long Island Power Authority’s wind-farm proposal is about to get some serious new scrutiny – from LIPA itself.
At a board of trustees hearing Thursday, LIPA chairman Kevin Law said he intends to conduct thorough economic analysis of the proposal to put 40 wind turbines off the coast of Jones Beach. Law stressed that he, like most Long Islanders, is a strong supporter of renewable energy sources, particularly amid growing concerns about how greenhouse gases contribute to global warming.
But he also realizes that Long Island ratepayers have a pricing threshold.
“We have an incredible affordability crisis here on Long Island, and we need to do things that make economic sense,” he said after the meeting.
Since 2003, LIPA has pushed strongly for the wind-farm, 31/2 miles and 51/2 miles offshore, saying the project is essential for reducing the region’s reliance on foreign oil. But LIPA has been reluctant to discuss the pricing of the project.
The authority last year initially denied a Newsday request under the Freedom of Information Law for documents detailing the costs. After the newspaper appealed, LIPA released outdated information showing contractor FPL Energy won bidding with an initial price of $356 million.
But other documents obtained by Newsday show the cost has increased “substantially” since FPL’s early bidding. LIPA has yet to sign a final .contract with FPL.
At the LIPA trustees meeting, the towns of Babylon and Islip expressed concerns about the project.
In a letter read during the meeting, Islip Supervisor Philip Nolan and Babylon Supervisor Steven Bellone estimated that the real cost for the wind farm could be more than $475 million. They also expressed doubt that LIPA would get the full 140 megawatts of energy from the turbines that has been promised. They estimated the wind farm might generate only 20 percent of its full capacity because the turbines won’t turn when there is no wind. They estimated LIPA could be paying $17 million a megawatt for the wind farm.
“Even the best-case scenario is exorbitant compared to other generation,” they wrote.
LIPA chief executive Richard Kessel said cost isn’t the only factor in the project.
“Obviously, the wind project has to be economical, but we also have to remember we are too dependent on fossil fuel and we are facing a global warming crisis,” Kessel said. “We need to rely more on renewable energy sources like wind power.”
By Mark Harrington
22 March 2007
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