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The Answer, My Friend, is Not Blowin' In the Wind

The Long Island Power Authority's proposal to build a grid of industrial-strength wind generators a few miles into the ocean off Jones Beach is adrift. It's too expensive, and it should remain at sea.

Harnessing the wind to generate electricity is a laudable goal, but rising costs will make LIPA's off-shore project unaffordable

The winds have shifted.

The Long Island Power Authority's proposal to build a grid of industrial-strength wind generators a few miles into the ocean off Jones Beach is adrift. It's too expensive, and it should remain at sea.

Despite the pressing need to find alternative and renewable sources of power, LIPA customers can't afford to pay the higher price of wind power from this project, which could be as much as three times the cost of current fossil-fuel generation. Long Islanders have some of the highest electric bills in the nation, along with stratospheric property taxes. That's why, at this time, prudence demands that LIPA avoid entering into so risky and expensive a venture.

Kevin Law, LIPA's new chairman, has ordered a second look at the highly controversial project promoted by his predecessor, Richard Kessel, who would brook no criticism of it. Law, whose mission is to lower electric bills, has asked for the latest estimates and promises to make them public soon afterward. Transparency at LIPA will be a refreshing... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Harnessing the wind to generate electricity is a laudable goal, but rising costs will make LIPA's off-shore project unaffordable

The winds have shifted.

The Long Island Power Authority's proposal to build a grid of industrial-strength wind generators a few miles into the ocean off Jones Beach is adrift. It's too expensive, and it should remain at sea.

Despite the pressing need to find alternative and renewable sources of power, LIPA customers can't afford to pay the higher price of wind power from this project, which could be as much as three times the cost of current fossil-fuel generation. Long Islanders have some of the highest electric bills in the nation, along with stratospheric property taxes. That's why, at this time, prudence demands that LIPA avoid entering into so risky and expensive a venture.

Kevin Law, LIPA's new chairman, has ordered a second look at the highly controversial project promoted by his predecessor, Richard Kessel, who would brook no criticism of it. Law, whose mission is to lower electric bills, has asked for the latest estimates and promises to make them public soon afterward. Transparency at LIPA will be a refreshing change. And if those figures come in as high as expected, Law is likely to shelve the project.

The project's rising cost

FPL Energy, a subsidiary of Florida Power and Light Co., originally bid $356 million to build 40 giant industrial turbines in a six-acre grid just three miles off Long Island's iconic South Shore beach. In 2005, the company warned LIPA that the construction costs of the wind park were increasing, but Kessel refused to release the figures.

Now Law, who was appointed in January by Gov. Eliot Spitzer, has asked for a new economic analysis of the project, amid concerns that the price tag could range between $500 million and $1 billion because of the escalating price of steel and the uncompetitive market for deepwater turbines. As of now, there may be only one vendor willing to manufacturer them.

Since FPL would recover its investment through the rates it charges LIPA for the power the turbines produce, those escalating costs are deeply worrisome. Even using the figures in the initial bid, power generated by the wind turbines would likely start at $95 a megawatt hour - a number likely to double or even triple when newer construction costs are calculated. Currently, LIPA is paying, on average, $60 to $70 per megawatt hour for power generated by oil and gas. Not included in those FPL rates is what LIPA would pay out of its own pocket for a transmission cable from an underwater hook-up site near the wind park to a land-based substation.

Recent suggestions that LIPA build the project itself, because it would be cheaper to fund with tax-exempt bonds, might seem attractive at first. But LIPA ratepayers can ill afford the risk of a speculative venture. Remember, 20 percent of every ratepayer dollar goes to service the utility's considerable debt, most of it due to the Shoreham nuclear plant, the Island's last energy project debacle.

Other ways to clean the air

Kessel's desire to put LIPA in the forefront of the sustainable energy movement by promoting wind power is laudable. Yet, if LIPA and its customers want to pay a premium to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, there may well be ways to get a better return on the investment. Use the money to replace one of the Island's old, dirty, oil-guzzling generating plants, which supply a significant amount of power. Even at peak production, the offshore wind park would generate only 140 megawatts of nonpolluting power, a small portion of the more than 5,000 megawatts the Island consumes when demand is at its highest.

Abandoning the Jones Beach project doesn't mean that LIPA can't buy into wind power. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have come up with a design for a turbine that would sit on a floating platform. It would be cheaper than anchoring towers to the ocean floor and would allow the turbines to be placed farther out at sea, eliminating the considerable aesthetic argument that the wind park would be a blot on a treasured shoreline.

LIPA must remain aggressive about meeting the Island's energy needs with sustainable power; a state mandate will soon require that 25 percent of LIPA's energy come from renewable sources. That's why it should consider satisfying Albany's requirement by contracting with upstate, land-based wind farms to put more alternative energy into the state's grid.

Conservation is essential

In the end, however, wind becomes a false promise if it is presented as the only alternative. LIPA needs a full-fledged campaign to reduce consumption and increase efficiency. Long Island simply has to use less.

Harnessing the wind is destined to happen - its power is free, clean and endless. It just isn't blowing in our direction right now.



Source: http://www.newsday.com/news...

APR 8 2007
https://www.windaction.org/posts/8201-the-answer-my-friend-is-not-blowin-in-the-wind
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