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Source: Newsday

Wind farm OK off Cape Cod called a boost for LI project


Posted: May 3, 2010
Originally Published: April 28, 2010

Local energy officials say the approval Wednesday of the nation's first offshore wind farm, near Cape Cod, Mass., will boost the fortunes of what would be Long Island's first such venture, though opposition looms.

The decision by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar "should create smoother sails for the off-shore wind industry and help other wind projects like the one LIPA is exploring with Con Ed and NYPA to move forward," said LIPA chief executive Kevin Law.

And that project was expected to take a step forward Thursday, when Long Island Power Authority trustees will be asked to approve a memorandum of understanding among project partners LIPA, Con Edison and the New York Power Authority.

That agreement will pave the way for technical, economic and feasibility analyses, including purchasing the output by LIPA, NYPA and Con Ed, sources said.

The project's initial phase would see 100 turbines placed 13 miles off the coast of the Rockaways and western Nassau, to produce up to 350 megawatts of power. A second phase would double the number of turbines, which stand 425 feet above the water, including rotors. It will all cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

Salazar's decision cleared the way for the project known as Cape Wind, a 130-turbine wind farm in Nantucket Sound that was in its ninth year of federal review. He stepped in early this year to bring what he called much-needed resolution to the bitterly contested proposal. "We are beginning a new direction in our nation's energy future," Salazar said.

Opposition has been persistent, however, in Massachusetts and on Long Island.

"It is ludicrous to call offshore windmills green when the installation alone . . . could disrupt the spawning and migratory patterns of fish," said Bonnie Brady, director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association. "Call it what it is, an industrialized land grab of the ocean."

Members of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Martha's Vineyard have vowed to sue to stop Cape Wind, saying it would interfere with sacred rituals and ruin tribal burial sites.

America's onshore wind industry is the world's largest, but higher upfront costs, tougher technological challenges and environmental concerns have held back the development of offshore wind farms.

Local advocates and energy officials agreed with Law that the Cape Wind decision will help the Long Island project.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said, "We can finally take a giant step forward with support from the federal government."

National Grid USA, which manages the LIPA electric grid and others throughout New England, including Massachusetts, praised Salazar's decision, calling it a "historic step forward for energy policy in the United States."