With a report from LIPA about the financial feasibility of its off-shore wind-energy project due out in weeks, two state senators are calling on the authority to scuttle the costly plans immediately.
At the same time, one of the major backers of the wind farm, Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, said the near $700-million price tag to construct the wind farm is too steep, and he recommended the authority “shop around” for a better price.
“When I heard about the $700-million price tag, I was shocked,” he said. “I said, ‘This is getting ridiculous. I’m all for renewable energy, but I’m not willing to pay an unreasonable amount of money for it.”
State Sens. Owen Johnson (R-West Babylon), chairman of the finance committee, and Charles J. Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick), chairman of the consumer protection committee, have scheduled a news conference at Jones Beach today to urge LIPA to end the plan for 40 off-shore wind turbines off those waters because of the cost.
“It should be stopped immediately,” Johnson said. “It’s only a bill for ratepayers and ratepayers can’t afford it.”
Johnson accused LIPA of neglecting its mission to reduce electric rates “under the guise of a financial scam of protecting the environment.”
LIPA chief executive Richard Kessel issued a statement yesterday saying, “I certainly respect and value the opinions of Senators Johnson and Fuschillo,” and noting the study he commissioned will “help address their concerns.” The study will contrast LIPA contractor FPL Energy’s estimated project costs against those of other such projects globally.
“When completed, that evaluation will be released to help guide any public discussions and future decisions regarding the offshore project,” Kessel said. LIPA noted it has reduced electric rates over the past year.
Concerns about the cost of the wind farm arose after a series of reports in Newsday revealed the previously undisclosed, and escalating, construction cost of the project – from an initial estimate of $356 million to $650 million last fall to $698 million in December.
Some have suggested the costs, which would translate to power at more than double or even triple that of standard power, leaves LIPA with little choice but to shelve the project.
“These grandiose, largely symbolic projects that place an onerous burden on ratepayers are unsustainable and will be rejected,” Babylon Supervisor Steve Bellone said yesterday.
LIPA chairman Kevin Law, who sources say has been leaning against the project because of escalating costs, wasn’t available for comment.
Raacke of RELI, noting wind power is generally among the least expensive renewable energy sources, said the $700 million price tag “doesn’t reflect on the value of wind power as a good valid solution for Long Island â¦ LIPA needs to look a little further.”
BY MARK HARRINGTON
August 8, 2007
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