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Long Island wind-energy projects may get a second wind from LIPA, feds

Long-stalled wind-energy projects off Long Island’s shores could get a second wind if LIPA backs a new proposal and another 5-year-old project wins federal approval, advocates said Wednesday.

The waters around Long Island remain a strategically ideal place for wind-energy production, while the urgency brought by climate change and the improving economics of wind make a strong case for aggressive pursuit of the projects, environmentalists, state officials and developers said at a wind symposium at Stony Brook University.

The Long Island Power Authority in October issued a request for proposals for 280 megawatts of renewable energy. “We will review and analyze those renewable proposals: solar, wind, fuel cells, etc., that meet the criteria,” said LIPA spokesman Mark Gross.

Deepwater Wind, the Providence, R.I., offshore wind-farm developer, has secured a federal lease for 165,000 acres of ocean some 30 miles east of Montauk to build a 280-megawatt wind farm for LIPA, said Jeffrey Grybowski, Deepwater’s chief executive. The company will submit a bid for the LIPA request by the March deadline, he said, and the project, if selected, could be built by 2018. “We’ve already paid the rent on the federal lease,” he said of the $500,000 annual fee.

LIPA, which previously nixed a 40-turbine project 3 miles off Jones Beach because of its $800-million-plus price tag, will make a decision by the end of 2014. The Deepwater project has a $1.5 billion to $2 billion cost, Grybowski said.

Meanwhile, LIPA’s five-year-long collaboration with the New York Power Authority and Con Edison to build a 350-700 megawatt wind farm 15 miles south of Long Beach still awaits approval of a federal lease.

But Robert Lurie, senior vice president for strategic planning for NYPA, told the wind group Wednesday that the state continues to strongly support offshore wind energy, and will conduct strategic reviews of the project once, or if, the federal government grants the lease.

“While many of these things may seem to be taking longer than we may like, we are making progress,” he said.

Lurie said there are at least two other bidders to lease the same land, including Fishermen’s Energy, a wind-farm developer, and an offshore liquid natural gas conversion station. “We believe a [New York] wind farm is the best proposed use for that site,” he said.

The state would prefer that any project, working with private developers, include a proposal to build the turbines on the East Coast, preferably in New York, Lurie said.David Daly, president of PSEG-Long Island, said the company, which in January takes near-total control of the LIPA system, would be a prime player in scrutinizing bids for the LIPA proposal and participating in the NYPA-Con Ed project.

PSEG spokeswoman Karen Johnson said that in January 2015, PSEG-Long Island will assume LIPA’s role in the NYPA-Con Ed collaboration. “As the project progresses, and if it’s deemed feasible, it is likely that PSEG-Long Island, NYPA and Con Edison would go out for competitive bid (either individually or as the collaborative) and seek private development of the site,” Johnson said.

PSEG is already a partner with Deepwater Wind on a project off the New Jersey coast called Garden State Off Shore Energy, a 350-megawatt project.

“We’ll certainly continue to support off-shore wind energy,” Daly said. “We’re very much engaged.”

Douglass Sims, senior energy project finance specialist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that while green-energy projects such as off-shore wind carry relatively higher price tags than conventional energy, the long list of benefits largely offsets the cost differences. He said those include the benefit for local economies of building and maintaining the farms, the health benefits of not burning fossil fuels, and lower wholesale energy prices.