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LIPA chief kills wind farm project

The price tag for LIPA's proposed offshore wind farm could have reached $811 million, including construction, financing and transmission cable costs, a consultant to the authority said in a report released Thursday.

The figure is $114 million more than the construction-only price previously disclosed by the Long Island Power Authority. LIPA chairman Kevin Law said Wednesday he will terminate the project, which when first conceived early this decade was to be one of the nation's first offshore wind farms. Law said LIPA will study other proposals, including land-based wind turbines, but said the Jones Beach location is off the table.

Opponents of the farm with the Save Jones Beach organization gathered with Babylon Supervisor Steve Bellone Thursday to take note of the decision.

In an e-mail afterward, Bellone said he stressed the importance of learning lessons from the project "so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past as we move forward on a sound energy policy for Long Island." He suggested LIPA make "more disciplined energy decisions," begin real steps toward retooling the region's antiquated fossil-fuel plants and aggressively pursue conservation and efficiency measures to lower overall consumption.

LIPA chief executive Richard Kessel, while acknowledging cost issues with the project and agreeing with Law's assessment, Thursday challenged opponents to come up with something better.

"If you can find a renewable energy project that's viable, that can be sited and is cheaper than this, then I think LIPA should do it," he said. "But if not, than I think LIPA needs to come back to this project and do it."

He added, "For people to think they're going to get renewable energy on the cheap, they're fooling themselves."

According to LIPA, the study by Pace Global Energy Services, a consulting firm, found that the premium for wind-generated power from the Jones Beach project, over a 20-year period, would translate to about $2.50 per month to the typical residential consumer bill, or a total $66 million per year for all of LIPA. PACE arrived at the figure by comparing the cost of electricity produced in a combined-cycle natural gas power plant on Long Island, which is about $137 per megawatt hour, and a megawatt hour of power produced by the wind farm, which it said "could be $291."

LIPA said the PACE study found the costs were "in line with market expectations" for North American offshore projects "given the early-stage development" of the market and the "overall lack of a well-defined national energy policy to support these kinds of projects." It acknowledged costs for such plants in Europe are lower given government subsidies and the deeper experience building such projects.

But Martin Cantor, director of Dowling's Long Island Economic and Social Policy Institute, urged his longtime friend Kessel to give up the fight.

"The PACE study confirms our worst nightmare about this wind-farm project," he said. "We still have a project that will cost nearly a billion dollars when the substation and decommissioning costs are added."

Cantor said it's time to "stop kicking a dead horse, and bury the windfarm with some dignity."

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