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Power Authority loses gusto for Rockaways wind farm

A proposal to build an offshore wind farm at the Rockaways in Queens is mired by delays and is now on the back burner. NY1’s Courtney Gross filed the following exclusive report.

Fifteen miles off the coast in the Rockaways in Queens, state and city officials once planned to dot the skyline with wind turbines.

First announced in 2008 and endorsed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the massive offshore wind farm was set to start spinning by 2015. Currently, it is sputtering.

Jonathan Foster, the vice chairman of the New York Power Authority, whose chief executive officer just resigned, said the project is not at the top of the agency’s priority list.

“At this point, with our leadership somewhat in flux and having also announced two other major projects, the Hudson Transmission Project and also Recharge New York, we’ve got a full plate,” said Foster.

It has been more than a year since the Power Authority got approval to apply for a federal lease on the ocean floor, but they have yet to apply.

The authority also just withdrew a key application with the state’s independent power operator.

A spokesperson could not give a timeline for the project and called the application premature, and said environmental and economic studies are ongoing.

Large-scale offshore wind projects have had trouble gaining traction in the United States. Advocates say it has mostly to do with economics and a lack of enthusiasm for wind power.

“It’s more expensive, yes, because it hasn’t been tried,” said Kit Kennedy of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “But again, you need to put these projects in. You need to get the experience and then the cost comes down.”

An economic analysis found it would cost between $2.3 billion and $4.7 billion. The initial plan envisioned an offshore farm between 350 MW, or 97 turbines, and 750 MW, or 194 turbines.

Rockaways officials are still trying to get the project back on course.

“I am going to be communicating with the new head of the Power Authority, when we get a clear understanding of who that is, and try to push this idea,” said Queens Senator Malcolm Smith. “This is not just for the Rockaways. This is for something that is going to impact the entire city and the entire state.”

For now, the idea is staying on dry land.