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LIPA trustees won’t vote on wind farm project this week

The state of New York has finalized a blue print for offshore wind energy, but the LIPA board won’t take up a measure to authorize the utility to move ahead with a contract this week.

An agenda for the LIPA board meeting Wednesday in Uniondale doesn’t include the package of enhancements for the South Fork grid, which includes a 75-megawatt wind farm by Deepwater Wind and which LIPA was originally expected to vote on at its last meeting in July.

A LIPA official on Tuesday said while there will be no vote on the matter, he said the utility will bring back the contract back to the board once finalized “as we continue to evaluate the terms of the project.”

Environmentalists who had been expecting finalization of the pact, which LIPA first disclosed to the press extensively in July, expressed disappointment Tuesday.

“This is stressful but bearable,” said Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, a long-time wind-energy advocate. “I’ve been very patient with with this since 1999; it’s been decades in the making. As long as this is just a delay of a couple of weeks or even a couple of months, it’s bearable.”

But critics of offshore wind, particularly in the fishing industry, hailed the delay, and suggested the utility use it to do a more thorough review of the costs. The South Fork project, as reviewed by PSEG Long Island, will still require the utility to spend around $500 million to enhance the grid to move energy from the wind farm to points east from an East Hampton substation. But the entire project, which also includes large battery storage units, temporary generators, remote-control thermostats and the wind farm, will still require the utility to spend $500 million to enhance the grid after 2020.

“There’s no reason to do this wind farm when all they need to do is fix the grid on land,” said Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, which has opposed wind farm projects slated for fishing grounds.

The group says pile-driving into the ocean floor, jet plowing the sea bottom and the impacts from the sea structures will harm fish and the sea bottom. “Destroying the ocean to save the world may not be the best solution,” Brady said. “Why not fix the problem?”

The state blueprint, expected in August but released last week, is in some ways a step back from ambitions expressed in previous New York offshore wind analyses. A previous state map listed six potential offshore wind areas for New York, including one stretching along the coast of the Hamptons. The blue print more generally lists a “16,740-square-mile area of the ocean, from the south shore of Long Island and New York City to the continental shelf break, and notes, “Turbines will not be built in the entire area.”

While the blueprint’s release held up LIPA’s vote on the Deepwater project, the document doesn’t mention the 15 turbine proposal by name. Instead, it lays out extensive studies and research, public input and other work that must be done to finalize projects through a offshore wind master plan due out before next year’s end.

However, the blueprint notes that, “Early offshore wind projects may move forward in parallel with the master plan and should be the products of responsible site identification and assessment achieved through meaningful input from stakeholders, including the environmental, maritime and fishing communities, local economic stakeholders, and coastal communities.”