With a study reviewing the cost of the Long Island Power Authority’s off-shore wind project due within days, experts are predicting its conclusions will leave the utility with little choice but to postpone or scuttle the project.
LIPA has yet to make a final decision on the plan, though its chairman, Kevin Law, has expressed concerns about the cost even while saying he supports renewable energy proposals. He declined to comment yesterday.
Amid a growing chorus of critics, LIPA earlier this year commissioned an outside consultant to study the costs of the wind farm in comparison to conventional energy sources and similar wind projects around the globe. Since then a chorus of opposition has grown, most recently including Long Island Republican State Sens. Owen Johnson (R-West Babylon) and Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick), who cited the costs as they advised LIPA to cease any type of work on the project.
This summer LIPA, at Law’s request, revealed that the plan to build 40 turbines off the coast of Jones Beach had a projected cost of about $700 million as of December 2006 and predicted it could be $1 billion by completion.
“Those numbers should shock us enough to stop spending another nickel of ratepayers’ money on this project,” said Martin Cantor, director of the Long Island Economic and Social Policy Institute at Dowling College. The costs, he said, could mean there will be “little market for that power, leaving [contractor] FPL Energy with a huge investment to recover from ratepayers.”
LIPA chief executive Richard Kessel has said the project is needed to reduce the region’s reliance on fossil fuel-powered plants and foreign oil. “I think cost is very important but it shouldn’t be the only factor,” he said.
But even some longtime supporters have expressed uncommon concern about the costs, including Gordian Raacke, director of Renewable Energy Long Island, who said he was “shocked” when he saw the $700-million figure. He suggested LIPA shop around for more competitive proposals.
Another supporter, Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment Tuesday suggested cost issues have been overblown, noting that the real impact on ratepayers for the FPL wind farm could be as little as $7.50 a month.
What’s more, she said, “What sounds like a lot today may end up being cheap tomorrow if oil ends up being $90 a barrel.”
But like Raacke, she suggested that LIPA inject more competition into the process, noting that the FPL bid is now 4 years old.
By Mark Harrington
22 August 2007
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