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Addressing Long Island's Power Needs

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39 Ocean Windmills Are Planned to Expand Power on L.I.


UNIONDALE, N.Y., May 26 - Facing ever-rising demands for electricity, the Long Island Power Authority is embarking on an unorthodox plan to expand its supply by one-fifth - 39 towering windmills in the Atlantic Ocean, an underwater cable to New Jersey likened to a huge extension cord - and more commonplace power plants.

Private companies would build and own the projects, including the island's first new major power plant in a quarter of a century, supplying about 1,000 megawatts of electricity to the state-run power authority as a guaranteed customer. The windmills could be in place by 2008.

"Our goal is to the keep the lights on for Long Island," the authority's president and chairman, Richard M. Kessel, said at a news conference here Wednesday morning. That night the authority's board was given plans to approve for two small generating plants scheduled to open by the summer of 2005. Other projects will be phased in over several years.

Energy demand is growing fast as people expand their homes, buy big-screen televisions, add computers and cable boxes and turn up their air-conditioners, Mr. Kessel said. Despite a stable population, power use is rising at 100-plus megawatts a year, with residential consumption up 15 percent in the last five years.

"We've kept pace with demand" so far, Mr. Kessel said. But he added that the authority desperately needs more power. It now has a capacity of 5,000 megawatts for the nearly three million people it serves in Nassau and Suffolk Counties and the Rockaways in Queens.

Though the projects will cost more than half a billion dollars, "the overall impact on ratepayers will be negligible, maybe a percent or two," Mr. Kessel said.

In fact, the plan will avoid even higher energy costs in the future, the authority said. Access to cheaper electricity from the mainland via the cable to New Jersey, for example, is estimated to save $1.1 billion over several years.

"We want not a Gilligan's Island but a Long Island connected to the rest of the world," Mr. Kessel said. The cable will provide cheaper electricity, including power from nuclear and coal-fired generators, from what he called an "energy corridor" in a growing power grid stretching across New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Ohio and West Virginia.

Long Island is largely cut off from such power because it is surrounded by water and has limited connections through New York City.

Recently the power authority was frustrated when a new power cable across Long Island Sound to Connecticut was shut off because of opposition from Connecticut state officials who say it poses environmental hazards. New York officials are fighting to turn the cable back on.

No such hurdles are expected on the cable to New Jersey, where state officials support that project and the permit applications are nearing approval, Mr. Kessel said.

The most striking project is the offshore windmills. Though such projects exist in Europe, no offshore windmills have ever been built in the Americas.

The planned windmills will rise about 425 feet above sea level - equal to a 40-story building and higher than the Statue of Liberty's torch. They will be grouped about three miles south of Fire Island where it overlaps with Jones Beach, near Gilgo and Robert Moses State Parks. The total output would be 140 megawatts.

To build that project, the authority's review panel named FPL Energy, the nation's leading developer of land-based windmills, as the winning bidder.

The underwater cable to New Jersey would extend 67 miles from Sayreville, N.J., to Wantagh, N.Y., and run up the Wantagh Parkway to a converter station to be built at a Transportation Department yard.

For that project, the bidding review panel picked Neptune RTS of Pittsfield, Me. The project is planned for completion in 2007.

The new major power plant, a 326-megawatt generator, will be built on 92 acres of industrial land in Bellport on the south shore of Suffolk. The chosen bidder is Caithness of New York City.

Bids for two smaller plants, each producing just under 80 megawatts, were also recommended. Calpine was chosen to build a plant in Bethpage, and Pinelawn Power was picked for one in Babylon. They will be the first on the island with cogeneration, in which the main turbine's exhaust drives a second turbine.

"There are going to be critics of all these projects - not in my backyard," Mr. Kessel said, adding that hearings would be held.

Some people have objected that the windmills will protrude into the skyline at the beach. But environmental and civic groups have endorsed the windmills, and an array of local public officials is supporting the other projects as well, Mr. Kessel said, so he does not foresee strong opposition.

Six bids were also approved for conservation programs, like saving energy in apartment buildings and supermarkets. Those companies are Aspen Systems, Custom Energy, Ameresco, CSG Services, Honeywell and Johnson Controls.

Electrical power has a stormy history on Long Island. The old Long Island Lighting Company charged the highest electricity rates in the continental United States, partly because it spent $5 billion on the nuclear plant at Shoreham, which drew opposition from environmentalists and never went into service.

From The New York Times

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