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Feds to hold auction for wind turbines 11.5 miles off Jones Beach

The federal government in mid-December will hold an online auction for the right to place wind turbines in 79,350 acres of water 11.5 miles off the coast of Jones Beach, with 14 different entities identified as potential bidders.

The Atlantic Ocean site, which was originally identified for a wind farm by LIPA and Con Edison seven years ago, is slightly smaller than the wind-energy area officials at the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management identified earlier this year. The new plan excludes 1,780 acres because of environmental concerns over the undersea area known as Cholera Bank.

The New York wind-energy area is 11.5 miles from Jones Beach at its western end, the bureau said, and around 24 nautical miles off Long Island at its eastern end. As such its western portion would likely be visible from Long Island, given that the recently completed Block Island wind farm’s five 600-foot turbines are clearly visible from Montauk Point.

Bidders identified by the bureau include the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which earlier this year took over the state role initiated by the Long Island Power Authority in 2009, and Deepwater Wind, which has proposed a separate wind farm for LIPA off the coast of Rhode Island.

The list also includes DONG Energy Wind Power (U.S.), which already has water lease rights for wind-energy areas in New Jersey and Massachusetts. Earlier this year, state energy czar Richard Kauffman said he would recuse himself from decisions and meetings with DONG Energy concerning the NYSERDA wind-energy plan because he holds an investment in DONG through an offshore Goldman Sachs subsidiary, Danish Energy Investors.

In a statement, Sally Jewel, secretary of the Interior Department, called the auction plan “another milestone for the U.S. offshore wind energy program,” adding that the 14 potential bidders show “industry interest remains strong.”

The bureau’s announcement Thursday said it would include a “lease requirement” as part of the plan, which would require that the winning lease “develop a publicly available Fisheries Communications Plan” and work with a liaison to “facilitate communication with the fishing industry.”

Fishing interests had been pushing for exclusion of large portions of the federal tract that they said were vital harvesting grounds for squid, scallops, whiting and other species.

Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, a trade group, said the bureau should have excluded fishing grounds for the same environmental reasons as the Cholera Bank was.

“There’s no reason why they can’t remove areas that are of vital importance to the commercial fishing industry of several states,” she said. “It’s not acceptable.”