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Power Authority decides against off-shore wind turbines

The New York Power Authority formally voted today to end its push for off-shore wind turbines in Lake Ontario or Lake Erie.

At a meeting at the authority’s Westchester County office, NYPA’s trustees voted unanimously to shelve the idea. “This was not an easy decision to make,” trustee John Dyson said.

Cancellation of the so-called Great Lakes Offshore Wind project was widely expected. Decision-making on the project was months behind schedule, and critics were insisting it would not make financial sense.

NYPA staff agreed. “We’ve decided we are recommending it’s not fiscally prudent at this time to proceed,” Jill Anderson, a renewable-energy executive for the authority, told trustees. The Democrat and Chronicle monitored the meeting on a live video feed.

NYPA, an independent arm of state government, first proposed offshore wind development in one or both of New York’s Great Lakes in the spring of 2009. It received five proposals from private wind developers in June 2010 and since then has been reviewing them behind closed doors.

The developers were to build the turbines, which likely would have risen 450 feet or more above the water, and the authority was to subsidize the project by buying its electricity at a premium price.

Anderson said a study of those proposals led to the conclusion that “we could not come up with a way to lower the subsidy to the point where it would be affordable to the authority or to customers.” The annual subsidy for a modest-sized 150-megawatt offshore project would have been $60 to $100 million a year, she said.

Shoreline residents protested the turbines would spoil their view and harm property values, and elected officials in Monroe County and six of the eight other counties along the Lake Ontario and Lake Erie shoreline voted to oppose the idea.

The vote today came despite an eleventh-hour appeal from a statewide advocacy group, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, that Gov. Andrew Cuomo step in to save the project.

The authority is chaired by Rochester-area lawyer Michael Townsend, who openly expressed skepticism about the GLOW project this spring. Local builder and Lake Ontario shoreline resident R. Wayne LeChase joined the board in June.