The companies that want to bring renewable energy to Long Island are discovering what our real estate developers have known for decades: great on paper, tough to implement.
For Deepwater Energy of Rhode Island the latest decision to postpone LIPA’s vote on their second offshore wind farm proposal must be particularly galling. Two years ago they thought they had a slam dunk with a proposal far off the coast of Montauk. They reminded critics it would be out of sight but capable of sending thousands of kilowatts through a marine cable connected to the East End. The Cuomo Administration took a pass.
Now Deepwater Energy is proposing its off-shore project once again but LIPA has dramatically pulled it off the table, and no word on when they plan to consider that plan. Clearly an entity that reflects the thinking of the governor is awaiting word from Albany as to how or whether to proceed. If Deepwater is hoping for a speedy resolution they should ask the developers proposing to reinvent Belmont Racetrack. They submitted competing plans more than two years ago and they still haven’t gotten a decision.
For Deepwater, a company whose significant investor put a lot of money into prior Cuomo election campaigns, this must be bitter news indeed as their plan is green on so many levels.
It doesn’t stop there. Solar farms are also getting rough treatment on Long Island. Green advocates will tell you solar can help wean ourselves from fossil fuels but just not here. They are complaining that a proposal by National Grid and NextEra to cut down 350 acres of trees near the Shoreham almost-nuclear power plant for “the largest, industrial-scale solar factory in New York pits the environment against the environment for no reason.”
One could rhetorically ask if they are suggesting we build it in Levittown or atop Roosevelt Field Mall?
What is often lost in these counter energy debates is that these plans represent a business model that is predicated on providing power to mature electrical generating systems which, unfortunately for Deepwater, now have access to stable costs for fossil fuels. Global warming may very well be real but so too is the heavy burden of paying for electrical energy on Long Island. These renewable alternatives are being proposed by profit making companies intent on realizing a rate of return on investment and those dollars are going to have to come from the Long Island ratepayer. With Long Island already faced with an abundance of electrical power, one would have to ask why we are spending more money for electrons we don’t need, green though they may be.
Disparate special interests that include wealthy East End homeowners, the Long Island fishing industry (whose ally Billy Joel is a close friend of the governor) and professional environmentalists find themselves in an unusual alliance in opposing these projects. They may all have profoundly different reasons but the results are the same for companies like Deepwater and NextEra. Energy professionals will quietly tell you that is what is really needed on the East End of the Island is not renewable technology but the addition of good old fashion power lines that would distribute what is already being generated elsewhere.
Still, national politics may play a role in forcing Long Island to accept what it doesn’t really need and can’t afford. Gov. Cuomo seeks to be a major player in a Democratic party that is shifting to the left. He conjured up “Reforming the Energy Vision (REV),” as a state platform designed to position his administration as a clean energy leader. It promised to cut red tape, integrate clean energy into the existing power grid and generate economic growth. It all looks good when one is checking the governor’s liberal credentials but what it doesn’t do is change Long Island’s common religion of NIMBY or the simple fact that we literally can’t afford to pay for someone else’s political progressive energy agenda that is economically infeasible.
Rosenberg is the senior founding partner of Rosenberg Calica & Birney LLP of Garden City.
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