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LIPA committed to renewables, but moving cautiously on tidal, offshore wind power

Long Island, N.Y., has significant tidal energy resources, but the Long Island Power Authority plans to move ahead cautiously as it considers whether and how to exploit them. LIPA also remains interested in offshore wind power, provided that it can be harnessed at a reasonable cost.

Not under regulation by the New York Public Service Commission, LIPA is not formally subject to the state’s renewable portfolio standard. However, “LIPA has committed to meeting or exceeding the RPS,” LIPA Vice President of Environmental Affairs Michael Deering said. “Our president and CEO, Kevin Law, is interested in exploring all clean renewable forms of energy, diversifying our portfolio and reducing our carbon footprint.”

Mark Dougherty, LIPA’s manager of distributed generation and renewable programs, said there is a “tremendous” potential source of tidal energy at Long Island’s eastern tip in an area known to fisherman as Plum Gut. The area is believed to have the potential to generate up to 500 MW of tidal power.

In 2007, LIPA commissioned consulting firm E3 Inc. to assess the tidal power potential of Long Island’s waters. Deering said LIPA is still conducting its final review of the report, with its formal release expected in the near future.

He said that in addition to Long Island’s tidal power potential, LIPA also has to consider the environmental and infrastructure issues that must be addressed before this resource can be exploited.

These would include determining the effects on fisheries and recreational and commercial users of Long Island Sound. Dougherty pointed out that many of the hydrokinetic technologies proposed to harness the power of tides are not yet commercially proven. Deering added that even a pilot tidal power project would require LIPA to make infrastructure investments.

Deering recalled that several years ago LIPA had issued an RFP for offshore wind generation and had selected FPL Group Inc. subsidiary FPL Energy LLC’s proposal for a 40-turbine, 140-MW wind farm off of the island’s south shore. However, when Law took over LIPA in early 2007, he reviewed this concept.

“The costs since the project’s inception to then had escalated significantly,” Deering said. “Given that the costs greatly exceeded what had been anticipated, [Law] withdrew that proposal.”

Law continues to be interested in looking at both offshore and onshore wind as part of LIPA’s portfolio, Deering stressed. “It’s still on the table; it’s just the price point of that particular project didn’t meet the best interests of our customers.”

He said that LIPA is reviewing the offshore wind option with consultants. Several companies have contacted LIPA to express interest in an offshore wind project, but LIPA has not issued a new RFP.

LIPA continues to look at a full range of renewable energy options. LIPA April 22 issued an RFP for the development of 50 MW of solar power on Long Island.

Also, on April 2 LIPA approved contracts for 325 GWh per year of off-island renewable power for 10 years. This power consists of two blocks of 150 GWh off-island hydropower supplied by Brookfield Asset Management Inc. subsidiary Brookfield Energy Marketing Inc. and a 25 GWh block of landfill gas generation supplied by PPL Corp. subsidiary PPL EnergyPlus LLC.

By Steve Muller

SNL Interactive

29 April 2008