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LIPA pulls plug on offshore wind farm

A proposed offshore wind farm to be situated 30 miles east of Montauk is in doubt in the wake of the Long Island Power Authority’s decision on Wednesday to reject the proposed installation. LIPA will, however, pursue 11 land-based solar farms in Suffolk County. The wind farm, to be constructed and operated by the Rhode Island company Deepwater Wind, was prohibitively expensive, according to LIPA officials.

When completed and operational, the solar projects LIPA voted to pursue are projected to provide 122 megawatts of power, a figure that falls short of the 280 megawatts of clean, renewable energy the authority announced as a goal in 2012.

Reaction from stakeholders was swift. Jeffrey Grybowski, chief executive officer of Deepwater Wind, issued a statement on Wednesday in which he said that the power company had “missed an opportunity to build a 21st-century energy supply for Long Island and a new local industry employing hundreds for years to come.”

Mr. Grybowski pointed to a report issued by Stony Brook University concluding that construction of a wind farm and LIPA’s purchase of energy from it would have no impact on ratepayer bills. “Long Islanders suffer from some of the highest energy costs in the Northeast,” he said, “and the region trails the rest of New York State in renewables.” LIPA’s decision, he said, “does little to prepare Long Island for the future energy needs, save ratepayers money, or put Long Island laborers back to work.”

Last month, Mr. Grybowski announced a partnership with the Nassau-Suffolk Building and Construction Trades Council and the Long Island Federation of Labor, A.F.L.-C.I.O., to develop a local offshore wind industry. At that time, he said that he anticipated some 300 jobs would result from the offshore wind farm’s construction project. “We believe offshore wind has the potential to start a new clean-energy industry on the island,” he said.

Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, had a different take on yesterday’s announcement. On behalf of commercial fishermen, Ms. Brady was concerned about the proposed project’s potential impact on marine habitat, spawning, and migratory patterns.

It was hypocritical, Ms. Brady said, to fear environmental degradation through the burning of fossil fuels while damaging the environment that sustains an essential industry for Long Island’s economy and many of its residents. “We’ve got a renewable resource in our fisheries,” Ms. Brady said, “and it’s not just for commercial guys, it’s for the charter guys, recreational guys, lobstermen.” The proposed 256-square-mile wind farm site, she said, “is a very important area. It shouldn’t be ‘alternative energy at all costs,’ as in, ‘destroy an ecosystem so we can have it.’ ”

“I’m relieved that LIPA made a measured decision,” Ms. Brady said. “I want to believe it’s based upon not wanting to degrade an environment in the name of green energy.”

While recognizing the concerns of commercial fishermen, Mr. Grybowski disputed the degree of disruption or degradation construction of the offshore wind farm would have caused.