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Long Island Power Authority may build new electric substation in Wainscott

The Long Island Power Authority says it may need to construct a new power substation in Wainscott by 2026, part of a more than $400 million expansion of transmission lines that could be needed to meet growing power demand.

But the utility said this week that anticipation of a need for a new substation is not connected to the ever-broadening plans for offshore wind power generation, as skeptics about the looming Deepwater Wind project have suggested. A spokesman said it would only be necessary if the current forecasts of expansion of electrical demand on the South Fork prove accurate.

“The need for the substation is strictly for customer load demand and not for interconnection of the offshore wind project or delivery of its energy,” LIPA spokesperson Sid Nathan said on Monday. “Fortunately, the immediate need to build transmission projects, such as the Wainscott substation, is delayed due to the combined effect of the South Fork offshore wind farm, energy storage and energy-saving initiatives, such as the South Fork Peak Savers program. It is also a possibility that it may not be necessary at all.”

The plans for a substation are part of a broader extension of electrical transmission east of Riverhead, which the utility has estimated at costing more than $600 million, according to projections in its 2017 operating budget.

The overall initiative would extend a 138-kilovolt underground transmission cable from Riverhead to the envisioned Wainscott substation. Whereas LIPA’s 2017 budget forecasts the full project, the 2018 LIPA budget only included appropriations for the $191 million extension of the 138-kilovolt cable as far as the Shinnecock Canal, a project expected to be completed in 2021, and the extension of smaller 69-kilovolt cables between existing substations at the canal and in Southampton, and from Bridgehampton to East Hampton.

LIPA has yet to identify a site for a Wainscott substation and would have to purchase the land on which to construct it.

At a Town Board work session on July 3, East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said that he was hopeful that the arrival of wind-generated electricity on the South Fork and regional efforts at reducing electrical demand through energy efficiency initiatives and the expansion of local solar generation, could head off the need for the extensive expansion of transmission capacity to the area.

Some have seen an ulterior motive in LIPA’s plans, saying that the substation would seem better suited for distributing power brought ashore from offshore wind farms—which are still not officially proposed—and sending it west to the rest of Long Island.

“The new Wainscott substation will be 138 kilovolts—twice the size of the existing Buell Lane substation. A new underground cable, also rated to 138 kilovolts, is planned to carry power from Wainscott to western Suffolk County,” said Simon Kinsella, a Wainscott resident who has mounted a campaign in recent months to flesh out the cost impact of the planned South Fork Wind Farm to LIPA and PSEG ratepayers.

“Supervisor Van Scoyoc claims that [the new cable will] carry power in the opposite direction. But if this were true then the 138-kilovolt cable would bring power to the existing substations, which are the hubs for electrical distribution. The new 138-kilovolt cable is to carry power from a much larger wind farm.”

Mr. Kinsella points to other power supply agencies’ forecasts that anticipate more offshore wind farms off the South Fork bringing power ashore, including one referred to as “South Fork Wind Farm II” that is referenced in a power transmission project queue cataloged by the New York Independent System Operator, the quasi-public nonprofit that manages the state’s energy market.

East Hampton Town and the East Hampton Town Trustees currently are considering requests from Deepwater Wind to bring the power cable from the planned South Fork Wind Farm ashore in Wainscott, and connect it to the East Hampton substation near Buell Lane.

The Deepwater project, which will be 12 to 15 turbines, has been said to have a 90-megawatt capacity. But skeptics have said they expect that if permission for the Wainscott cable landing is granted, more cables from additional turbines that are only conceptual now, will aim for Wainscott’s shoreline also.

The state has set a goal of receiving some 2,400 megawatts of power from renewable energy. The state’s renewable energy agency has identified two areas in the ocean off the New York Bight for the construction of hundreds of turbines, which would most likely send power ashore on western Long Island and New York City.

But Deepwater Wind has said the expanse of seafloor it has leased from the federal government southeast of Block Island could ultimately support more than 200 wind turbines. The company has already inked a supply contract with Rhode Island for 50 turbines in the same vicinity.

Two other companies, Vineyard Wind and Orstead, the world’s largest offshore wind developer, have leased vast areas of seafloor in the same area.