A stiff wind kicked up at Gilgo Beach in Babylon yesterday as Town Supervisor Steve Bellone took to a podium planted in the sand to launch an assault on LIPA’s proposed windmill project.
Flanked by giant, tipsy photo simulations of the Long Island Power Authority’s project and Babylon’s own more stark depictions of the 40 turbines, Bellone declared it was time for LIPA to come clean on all elements of the project.
He said photos of the project on LIPA’s Web site “are inaccurate and do not depict what the turbines will look like to the average eye.” Asked whether the quarter-inch difference in the depictions mattered, Bellone insisted: “This is not nit-picking. What this is calling for is truth in advertising.”
Bellone took LIPA to task for suggesting the project would cost ratepayers nothing because contractor FPL Energy would pay the costs, suggesting instead that Babylon’s best estimate of a $556 million construction cost would be reflected in significantly higher rates. “Besides Shoreham, this will be the most expensive energy project Long Island has ever seen,” he charged.
The supervisor noted that while the 140-megawatt capacity of the turbines is “technically” their highest-rated output, intermittent wind patterns mean the 40 turbines are likely to produce just 28-35 megawatts on average per year. “Are Long Islanders ready to pay more than a half-billion dollars to produce 28 megawatts?” he said.
Bellone suggested that LIPA focus on alternatives such as Islandwide conservation measures and stronger green building codes. He has also pushed for overhauling old KeySpan plants.
LIPA representatives didn’t attend the meeting, but in a statement yesterday, chief executive Richard Kessel reiterated that the authority was “in the process of getting updated cost figures from FPL Energy” and will “make them public as soon as we get them.”
On the photo comparisons, Kessel added, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but L.I. urgently needs to lessen its dependence on fossil fuels and it needs to do it soon.”
The gathering was attended by several members of the Save Jones Beach Ad Hoc committee, the group that opposes the project, some of whose members live nearby.
Beachgoers at Gilgo yesterday took a mixed view of windmills. Tourists Marc and Sally Switzer of Cape Vincent, N.Y., near the Canadian border, said their town is considering land- and water-based turbines, as near as two miles from their home. “I don’t think it would be an issue,” he said. She added, “I personally think they’re kind of nice looking.”
But Jackie and Patrick O’Brien of North Babylon were adamantly against it. “To me it’s just a total waste and it’s an obscene-looking thing,” he said.
Those for or against wind energy will get the chance to sound off tonight when the federal Minerals Management Service conducts a public hearing at 7 o’clock. at the Melville Marriott.
By Mark Harrington
25 April 2007
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