EAST HAMPTON, NY – Residents brought their questions Thursday afternoon about an offshore wind power project 30 miles southeast of Montauk that has some in the community divided.
The East Hampton Historical Society’s Clinton Academy on Main Street hosted an open house with Deepwater Wind of Providence, RI, where the public could meet the company’s team, including CEO Jeffrey Grybowski, and ask questions about the project.
Deepwater has entered into a 20-year power purchase agreement to sell the energy generated to LIPA, with operation scheduled to begin in 2022; a 50-mile cable under the ocean will connect the 12 to 15 planned turbines to the mainland, representatives explained.
Changes on the East End have long been subject to scrutiny and criticism, with residents raising concerns in recent years about aircraft noise, land preservation and development – as well as the impacts of wind turbines in local waters.
The wind power project has sparked debate on both sides of the issue, judging by the wall-to-wall crowd that attended.
Attendees comprised a cross-section of East Hampton: Local fishermen had questions about the possible effects on their catch. Montauk’s Chuck Morici and Bruce Beckwith had questions about the future of cod fishing. Conservationist Larry Penny, family groups, and members of local fire departments, some who are also fishermen, were also well represented.
Also in attendance were East Hampton Town Board members Peter Van Scoyoc and Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, as well as former East Hampton Village Chief Gerard Larsen. Linda James, acting chairperson of the East Hampton Town Energy Sustainability Committee, and liaison to the town board, produced the event.
In January, it was a win for renewable energy as the Long Island Power Authority’s board of trustees voted unanimously to approve the nation’s largest offshore wind farm just 30 miles southeast of Montauk.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said the project is the first offshore wind farm in New York, and the approval of the South Fork Wind Farm, a 90 megawatt development, is the first step toward developing an area that can host up to 1,000 megawatts of offshore wind power.
The wind farm, which is out of sight from Long Island’s beaches, will provide enough electricity to power 50,000 Long Island homes with “clean, renewable energy, and will help meet increasing electricity demand on the South Fork of Long Island,” Cuomo said in a release.
The vote came two weeks after Cuomo called on LIPA to approve the wind farm project and announced an commitment to develop up to 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 in his regional State of the State address on Long Island. The 2.4 gigawatt target, enough power generation for 1.25 million homes, is the largest commitment to offshore wind energy in United States history, he said.
“New York leads the nation in pioneering clean energy innovation, and this bold action marks the next step in our unprecedented commitment to offshore wind, as well as our ambitious long term energy goal of supplying half of all electricity from renewable sources by 2030,” Cuomo said.
The project, he said, will also create high-paying jobs, continue an effort to combat climate change, and help to preserve the environment for current and future generations.
The LIPA board approved a contract submitted by Deepwater Wind for the South Fork Wind Farm after a year-long process engaging the private sector for ideas and detailed cost modeling.
Other elements of LIPA’s South Fork energy portfolio include transmission enhancements and additional clean energy solutions such as battery storage and consumer electricity demand reduction.
“This is a big day for clean energy in New York and our nation. Governor Cuomo has set a bold vision for a clean energy future, and this project is a significant step toward making that a reality. The South Fork Wind Farm will be the second offshore wind farm in America, and its largest. There is a huge clean energy resource blowing off of our coastline just over the horizon, and it is time to tap into this unlimited resource to power our communities,” said Grybowski.
The LIPA board approved a 20-year pay-for-performance power purchase agreement, allowing the utility to only pay for delivered energy without taking construction or operating risk, the release said.
Advancing technology and innovation reduced the project’s all-in wind energy price to be competitive with other renewable energy sources, the release explained.
Tom Falcone, LIPA’s chief executive officer, spoke about the momentous day: “We are confident this is the first step to developing the tremendous potential of offshore wind off Long Island’s coast and meeting Governor Cuomo’s Clean Energy Standard. This project is the right size, at the right location and demonstrates how smart energy decisions can reduce cost while providing renewable energy and clean air for all of Long Island.”
In addition to the approval for the South Fork Wind Farm, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority also plans to continue to develop an Offshore Wind Master Plan outlining the state’s commitment to developing cost-effective offshore wind resources in federal waters off the coast of New York.
The master plan is slated for release in late 2017 and aims to show how additional New York coastal sites may be developed responsibly, including expected capacity targets and commercial operation dates for each site.
John Rhodes, President and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, expressed his thoughts on the day: “New York is leading the nation in developing offshore wind to provide clean, renewable energy and I applaud LIPA’s approval of the South Fork Wind Farm. Offshore wind has great potential to help us achieve our ambitious clean energy goals under the Clean Energy Standard and Reforming the Energy Vision as well as the Governor’s 2.4 gigawatt goal, and this project will reduce our carbon footprint and protect the environment for generations to come.”
New York State Senator Kenneth LaValle added, “Wind and other alternative energy sources are critically important components in our overall energy strategy. This project will greatly bolster the East End’s energy reliability in an environmentally compatible manner, help stabilize rates, and create much needed construction jobs in the region.”
New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. was also happy about the vote. “Long Island, and particularly the East End, faces unique energy and economic challenges. As one of the few parts of Long Island in which energy demands continue to grow, we face a steadily increasing need for new sources of power. Our existing electricity grid is operating at its limits and, given our population density and our commitment to conservation, building any new energy infrastructure here is difficult.”
LIPA’s vote, he said, will broaden its commitment to maintaining a renewable energy portfolio. “Not only will this help the South Fork meet its increasing energy demand, but will do so in an environmentally responsible manner, creating jobs for our state,” he said.
And, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone added, “By locating the offshore wind farm 30 miles offshore, it will be over the horizon and will not impact views from our beaches. By installing energy storage facilities in Montauk and Wainscott, it will deliver reliable power without the noise and emissions that accompany conventional power plants. And, by providing enough clean energy for 50,000 Long Island homes, it will help to mitigate climate change and establish New York State as a leader in clean energy.”
The vote was a win for environmentalists who celebrated the victory.
Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, was jubilant: “Our transition from fossil fuels to renewables has just taken a giant leap forward with this historic decision. This is a game changer, a legacy that all New Yorkers will be proud of. By tackling climate change head-on, New York is proving to be a global leader.”
And, said Gordian Raacke, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Long Island, “This is a big step for LIPA, a bold step for renewable energy on Long Island, and the beginning of an offshore wind industry in the State of New York and the country. We commend Governor Cuomo and LIPA for showing visionary leadership in the transition to renewable energy and thank all who have advocated for offshore wind energy over the last couple of decades.”
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