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NJ, wind-farm developer push for smaller wind-energy area off Hamptons

A top New Jersey utility official and a wind-farm developer on Friday raised objection to the idea that wind turbines should be excluded from waters off the Hamptons, arguing inclusion would foster competition.

The official’s request follows federal release Wednesday of proposed wind-farm areas for the waters between New York and New Jersey that unexpectedly excluded two areas 15 miles from Long Island from a proposed lease sale later this year or early next year. New York state and local officials applauded their removal, citing conflicts with commercial fishing, shipping and visual impacts.

Jim Ferris, bureau chief for new technology at the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities’ clean energy division, during an online conference Friday, acknowledged there were “conflicts” in the Hamptons areas called Fairways North and Fairways South, including shipping. But he noted, “There are conflicts and potential conflicts in all the areas.”

Returning a reduced Fairways North area to the bidding, Ferris said, “gives us another viable area and increases competition.”

One potential wind-farm developer agreed.

Ross Thomas, chief executive officer of Horizon Wind Power, a developer, said during the hearing he “completely disagreed” with the decision to exclude both Fairways areas from this year’s wind energy areas. Ross suggested their exclusion would create “unnecessary competition” between New York and New Jersey for projects, and asked, “Wouldn’t that push the price up for the ratepayer in the end?”

Ross said Fairways North and South are “perfectly reasonable” areas for development. Horizon has proposed a wind farm 21.6 miles off Southampton.

New York State, also on the conference call Friday, applauded the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for taking the Hamptons areas off the table, chiefly because the state wants turbines to be at least 18 nautical miles from shore. The Fairway North area is only 15 miles from some of the nation’s most expensive homes. New York has previously acknowledged visual conflicts that would result from the area.

“We continue to push back on development of Fairways North and Fairways South” areas, said Greg Lampman, program manager for environmental research at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. He noted the Fairways sites were “conflicted and are relatively small scale.”

Fairways North, which would be located directly across from the entire coast of the Hamptons, was initially proposed to be the second largest of five proposed sites. At 88,246 acres, it would have allowed for production of more than 1,000 megawatts of offshore wind power, enough to power 374,975 homes. New Jersey recommends reducing the site to 62,270 acres, enough to produce 753 megawatts of offshore wind energy.

BOEM had initially included two Fairways sites in a list released three weeks ago, but unexpectedly removed them when it announced a final list on Wednesday.

New Jersey, which has a goal of 7,500 megawatts of offshore wind in coming years, agreed with the assessment that the second Fairways area be excluded. That area would have been located south of the Great South Bay, and was found to be too near to shipping lanes and conflicted with commercial fishing.