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Galloo Island Wind Farm in limbo as state senator calls for end to Great Lakes Offshore Wind

Developers of Galloo Island Wind Farm have waited months for word on their application for a power purchase agreement, and now a state senator has said the entire program for offshore wind power in the Great Lakes should be scrapped.

State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, told the Buffalo News on Thursday that the New York Power Authority is backing away from the Lake Ontario and Lake Erie project in favor of a wind farm off Long Island with the Long Island Power Authority and Consolidated Edison.

“I think at this time it is very expensive and I think at this time they are moving away from it and I think it’s a wise decision,” he said Friday. “I have every indication that it is not moving forward.”

But Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said Friday that NYPA officials told her last week that no decisions had been made.

“They said they are still in the review process,” she said. “They said they will get back to us shortly.”

NYPA asked in December 2009 for bids from developers to install up to 500 megawatts of wind power in the shallow waters of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. Bids were due June 1, 2010, when a review process began. Galloo Island Wind Farm, proposed by Upstate NY Power Corp. for an uninhabited island in Lake Ontario about six miles from shore, submitted a proposal.

Sen. Maziarz said the lack of action, a departure from the planned timeline, is a clear indication that the project died with the resignation of NYPA President and CEO Richard M. Kessel.

“With Mr. Kessel moving on, and it was very much his project, and it’s a new administration, there may be a new direction,” Sen. Maziarz said. “Mr. Kessel leaving speaks volumes.”

NYPA officials won’t speak to the status of the review.

“At this time, our trustees have not taken additional action regarding the proposed Great Lakes Offshore Wind Project,” Connie M. Cullen, deputy director of media relations, said in an email. “This is a matter that is still under review by NYPA.”

The board of trustees next meets Sept. 27. Upstate NY Power told people on a conference call for its transmission line that it expected action from NYPA soon, which would allow it to see if the 246-megawatt project and an underwater transmission line are viable.

The Buffalo News said the Great Lakes project would cost about $1 billion, which is pushing the authority to make the ocean-based project the No. 1 priority.

The authorities filed for a lease with the federal government to use the ocean floor 13 to 17 miles off the coast of Rockaway Peninsula and Long Island for a 350-megawatt project, which could cost $2.34 billion to $4.67 billion. The project would connect to Long Island, New York City and New Jersey and has support from city officials.

“I think a lot of the interest in moving forward more rapidly with the downstate project is a result of the need of the load growth and price – that’s the highest-priced area for electricity,” said Carol E. Murphy, executive director of Alliance for Clean Energy New York, which includes wind power developers. “That’s not to say the Great Lakes project isn’t a good project; it is, but when you’re looking at what projects would alleviate demand, the downstate one is strong.”

But New York could make a grave mistake in dropping the Great Lakes project, she warned.

“What kind of message does that send to abandon it when what we’ve heard anecdotally is that they got a lot of good bids?” she said. “I think it sends a signal that New York isn’t serious.”

She still has confidence that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will continue to follow his list of priorities, which includes wind, offshore wind and solar power generation. And the Long Island project now, unlike a previous proposal by a Kessel-led LIPA, has more efficient turbines and more global experience with offshore wind.

Though local leaders oppose turbine placement on the Lake Ontario lake bed, they support the Galloo Island Wind Farm with a few stipulations.

“My two stipulations were that I wanted to make sure the purchase power agreement is at the market rate, because I think it is not fair to issue that above market rate,” Sen. Ritchie said. “And I had the company Upstate NY Power agree that it should be an underwater transmission line.”

She supports the Galloo Island project because the town of Hounsfield has had overwhelming support for it. Long Island residents should make a decision on their own project, she said.

“Just as I would like to have local decisions in my district, I’d say it’s up to Long Island whether they’re willing to have a project there,” she said. “But in terms of whether it makes more sense to have a project where power is piped directly to New York City? Probably.”