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Icy reception for wind park - Proposed offshore windmill bank would be ugly and won't reduce bills much, say South Shore residents

Critics argued the combined 140 megawatts the turbines would produce at peak capacity represented a fraction of the Island's current 6,100 megawatt availability, at a price equivalent to or higher than oil or gas-based power. They voiced concerns over turbine noise, obstructed views and impacted property values, and noted that low wind velocities during the summer season could mean the wind farm is least productive when needed most.

Hundreds of South Shore residents spent Tuesday night tilting at windmills, arguing that LIPA's proposed offshore wind park represents an untested eyesore that will do little to offset the Island's voracious electrical appetite or reduce record-high energy bills.

But a jovially combative Long Island Power Authority chairman Richard Kessel fought back, saying residents who consume ever-increasing levels of power must begin considering alternatives - or face new fuel-burning plants in their neighborhoods.

"The choice isn't wind or nothing," Kessel said. "It's wind or a fossil-fuel plant."

That refrain, and the contention that residents were being "handcuffed" by OPEC and oil companies, drew moans by the meeting's conclusion at Massapequa High School three hours later, as residents pounced on wind power's spotty history, high costs and relatively low output. To the overarching concern of the wind park's blight on the coastline, Kessel countered: "I happen to think wind towers are beautiful."

The proposed wind-farm project, to be built and financed by Florida Power & Light Group's FPL Energy subsidiary, proposes erecting 40 giant wind turbines in a 6-square-mile area off of West Gilgo Beach by 2008. Located between 3 1/2 miles and 5 1/2 miles offshore, the towers would be visible at least from Jones Beach to Robert Moses State Park; they would sport warning... [truncated due to possible copyright]  
Hundreds of South Shore residents spent Tuesday night tilting at windmills, arguing that LIPA's proposed offshore wind park represents an untested eyesore that will do little to offset the Island's voracious electrical appetite or reduce record-high energy bills.

But a jovially combative Long Island Power Authority chairman Richard Kessel fought back, saying residents who consume ever-increasing levels of power must begin considering alternatives - or face new fuel-burning plants in their neighborhoods.

"The choice isn't wind or nothing," Kessel said. "It's wind or a fossil-fuel plant."

That refrain, and the contention that residents were being "handcuffed" by OPEC and oil companies, drew moans by the meeting's conclusion at Massapequa High School three hours later, as residents pounced on wind power's spotty history, high costs and relatively low output. To the overarching concern of the wind park's blight on the coastline, Kessel countered: "I happen to think wind towers are beautiful."

The proposed wind-farm project, to be built and financed by Florida Power & Light Group's FPL Energy subsidiary, proposes erecting 40 giant wind turbines in a 6-square-mile area off of West Gilgo Beach by 2008. Located between 3 1/2 miles and 5 1/2 miles offshore, the towers would be visible at least from Jones Beach to Robert Moses State Park; they would sport warning lights, foghorns and starter motors, and their blades would reach 442 1/2 feet high.

LIPA would buy energy from FPL at a price that hinges on the final construction costs (estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars), and LIPA would pay for laying transmission cable to the electrical grid.

Critics argued the combined 140 megawatts the turbines would produce at peak capacity represented a fraction of the Island's current 6,100 megawatt availability, at a price equivalent to or higher than oil or gas-based power. They voiced concerns over turbine noise, obstructed views and impacted property values, and noted that low wind velocities during the summer season could mean the wind farm is least productive when needed most.

The project still must be approved by the federal Department of the Interior and the state Public Service Commission.

While most of the debate centered on the aesthetics and technical feasibility of wind power, the discussion veered occasionally into murkier territory. Richard Schary of North Bellmore noted that former LIPA chairman Frank Zarb, who in 2004 served on a LIPA steering committee reviewing the utility's future initiatives, is a director of FPL Energy's parent FPL Group.

Kessel bristled at the suggestion Zarb might have a conflict. "Frank Zarb is not making any money off the project, and I think it's an insult to attack somebody who is not here to defend himself," he boomed.

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JAN 19 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/1011-icy-reception-for-wind-park-proposed-offshore-windmill-bank-would-be-ugly-and-won-t-reduce-bills-much-say-south-shore-residents
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