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Queens Chronicle

State explores wind energy off the Rockaway Peninsula

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Posted: Thursday, October 9, 2008 12:00 am

Crisis is a word the public hears several times a day, every day. “Financial crisis,” “health care crisis,” “climate change crisis,” “energy crisis” — these phrases are seen, heard and read everywhere from the evening news to the morning radio broadcast to the lunch-break newspaper.

Some find it refreshing to finally read about “potential,” and were glad to hear about the launch of a project exploring possible wind energy for New York State.

An interdisciplinary working group formed last month between the Long Island Power Authority and Consolidated Edison to study the potential for an offshore wind project that would be situated at least 10 miles off the Rockaway Peninsula.

This marks the first regional partnership project between LIPA and ConEd.

The project originated from a series of recommendations made in February 2007 by the Governor’s Renewable Energy Taskforce — a commission charged with a series of tasks aimed at increasing the state’s supply of clean, renewable energy.

Those included identifying barriers to increased production of renewable energy; recommending policies and financial incentives to overcome those barriers; and identifying future markers where additional research and development investment is necessary.

The wind energy project was among the recommendations made in a report released by the task force in February 2007.

It suggested the formation of a working group that would study suitable locations for an offshore wind project; transmission and interconnection capabilities; and the availability of wind as an energy source.

Information gathered from this study will be used to determine whether there are opportunities for such a project and its feasibility. If a wind energy project is feasible, the working group would develop a request for proposals whereby both utilities could share the cost of and power generated by the project.

Wind developers, industry representatives and other interested parties will be invited to participate in the study, as well.

The project could provide a variety of benefits, according to Gov. David Paterson. It could stimulate investments in clean and renewable energy technologies, which would create more clean-technology, or “green collar” jobs, incite significant market developments for the wind industry and help diversify the state’s electricity system.

This is not LIPA’s first attempt to create offshore wind turbine farms that harness the clean, renewable energy. Several years ago it proposed the construction of a 40-turbine wind farm off Jones Beach that would have produced 140 megawatts of energy. LIPA shelved the project when it discovered that costs substantially exceeded what was originally anticipated.

New offshore wind turbine technologies that allow facilities to be sited much further offshore now than was possible just a few years ago prompted LIPA to give the idea a second attempt.

“I share the … desire to introduce more wind resources in the metropolitan region,” said LIPA President and CEO Kevin Law in a statement. “While there is plenty of windpower upstate, there is a transmission bottleneck that makes it difficult to get it to New York City and Long Island, and we need to do some planning to see if offshore wind makes sense downstate.”

ConEd’s Chairman and CEO, Kevin Burke, called the use of renewable technologies “critical” to the economy. “This burgeoning market has potential as limitless as the energy it can generate,” he said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is known to be environmentally conscious and who has taken efforts to improve the city’s energy efficiency, welcomed this effort to building a “greener, greater New York.”

Don Riepe, president of the Northeast Chapter of the American Littoral Society and founder of the Jamaica Bay Guardian, agreed that, overall, the project is a step in the right direction. But, he said, “we need to look at it from a wholistic approach.”

Part of the energy-efficiency package should be conservation. “Nobody talks about … using less energy so we don’t have to keep plugging in more and more things into the system,” Riepe noted.

What about solar energy and green roofs, he asked. “There’s lots we can do and I think all of that should be part of the mix, not just say, ‘Oh, we need more energy, let’s put a whole bunch of windmills out there,’ like that’s going to solve it.”

Riepe’s most important piece of advice to the task force and the public was: “You have to weigh the environmental benefits as well as the costs.”

Welcome to the discussion.