Article

Selling Wind

It struck me that the wind farm is scheduled to be operating by 2008, only two years hence. I work on deadlines. I guessed, then, that all during the public hearing process, and the permit-application process, and the permission-to-build process, these guys will be building the project, anyway.

I noticed a commotion one day last summer on the dock near the Gilgo Beach Inn.

Two white vans were parked diagonally across designated borders in a manner common to official vehicles and television news crews.

Extension booms for microphones poked out from behind the vans; television cameras appeared and aimed their attentions at a gaggle of uncomfortably (I assumed; it was hot) suited-and-necktied men.

I recognized Richie Kessel, recovered gadfly/improbably turned chairman and CEO of the Long Island Power Authority, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, a soon-to-be candidate for New York State governor, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, and finally—if memory serves—Babylon Town Supervisor Steve Bellone.

Holding up a colorful map of the South Shore, each in his turn warned the assembled dozen beachgoers—and the cameras—about the dangers of local unpreparedness, should high-intensity hurricanes like those then pummeling Florida decide to travel upcoast and slam into Long Island.

After the boys got their face-time on camera, they tucked the graphics into an automobile trunk and drove away, leaving locals to speculate,

"Why are they telling this to us? Shouldn't we be telling this to... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
I noticed a commotion one day last summer on the dock near the Gilgo Beach Inn.

Two white vans were parked diagonally across designated borders in a manner common to official vehicles and television news crews.

Extension booms for microphones poked out from behind the vans; television cameras appeared and aimed their attentions at a gaggle of uncomfortably (I assumed; it was hot) suited-and-necktied men.

I recognized Richie Kessel, recovered gadfly/improbably turned chairman and CEO of the Long Island Power Authority, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, a soon-to-be candidate for New York State governor, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, and finally—if memory serves—Babylon Town Supervisor Steve Bellone.

Holding up a colorful map of the South Shore, each in his turn warned the assembled dozen beachgoers—and the cameras—about the dangers of local unpreparedness, should high-intensity hurricanes like those then pummeling Florida decide to travel upcoast and slam into Long Island.

After the boys got their face-time on camera, they tucked the graphics into an automobile trunk and drove away, leaving locals to speculate,

"Why are they telling this to us? Shouldn't we be telling this to them?"

The summertime scene resurfaced in my decaying memory on Jan. 17, at a show of public concern by officials of the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and the Florida Power & Light Company's windmill-constructing subsidiary, FPL Energy.

The builders of the project and the officers of the local civic associations sat at a long table facing the (large) audience in the Massapequa High School auditorium, each either making his scripted presentation or voicing his organization's concerns about what would be the first offshore wind park in the United States: 40 huge windmills in a 6-mile strip of Atlantic Ocean, from off Tobay Beach to off Gilgo Beach, providing electricity for about 44,000 homes.

An orderly parade of pre-reserved audience speakers and questioners followed the scripted stuff, for about an hour, until groups of people got tired or bored or cynical and departed.

A questioner asked about the hurricanes that had so concerned Kessel and his comrades last summer. What if a hurricane with, say, 160-mile-an-hour winds visited us? Kessel, whose jolly, down-home effect seemed to be prying its way under the staid skin of the FPL executive next to him, answered that if the winds reached 160 miles an hour, "You wouldn't have to worry about the windmills." He said LIPA's transmission towers would likely tumble. No matter what the source of the power, LIPA would not be able to distribute it.

"How odd," I thought.

Another questioner asked Kessel if the 40 windmills stretching up more than 400 feet (40 stories: Think Lefrak City) into the seascape sky would make any noise, only 3.6 miles away.

I privately imagined that they would. A multicolored pinwheel makes noise.

No, said Kessel, and the FPL executive, and the literature, even though (I thought, privately) foghorns on each windmill would ward off boaters. FPL also said that the company had never built an offshore windmill farm before, but still were confident that they would not make noise.

Forty foghorns, 40 giant fans; no noise. I was impressed.

Naturally, questioners asked, "Why build it here?" leading to a Kesselian NIMBY lecture that would be hard to refute, except that nobody asked, "Why not off Dune Road?" or, "Why not 3.6 miles south of Jerry Seinfeld's mansion, or Martha Stewart's?" Someone did ask, "Why not off Montauk?" Kessel said that site engineers had determined that there were questions about disturbing migratory bird patterns off Montauk.

According to the map, the proposed windmills will feed a power cable that by 2008 already will have been bored through the barrier island, underneath Ocean Parkway, through or parallel to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary and Guggenheim Pond, under the State Boat Channel, through the delicate mud of the estuary islands across Bass Creek, Sloop Channel and Winnie Hook, all named by waterfowlers, and across the bay to Clock's Boulevard in Massapequa.

How Orwellian: All migratory waterfowl are equal; some migratory waterfowl are more equal than others.

Kessel used the substitute profanity "freakin'" a few times. This seemed to endear him to the crowd and embarrass the stiff FPL executive. "If you don't want us to build any more power plants," Kessel wailed, "turn off your freakin' air conditioners."

Asked who was making the scads of money likely generated by the project, Kessel said he made $165,000 a year, as chairman of a power authority. He said Keyspan CEO Bob Catell "—and I love him dearly," he said, "makes about $3 million a year. So, I'm probably the lowest-paid utility chairman in the country."

I thought that was nice, but recalled a recent story wherein Kessel suggested that a few years down the road, it might save ratepayers money to return LIPA to the private sector.

It struck me that the wind farm is scheduled to be operating by 2008, only two years hence. I work on deadlines. I guessed, then, that all during the public hearing process, and the permit-application process, and the permission-to-build process, these guys will be building the project, anyway.

By that time, I needed a freakin' break.

Source: http://www.longislandpress....

FEB 2 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/1177-selling-wind
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