Environmentalists and activists are preparing to rally for offshore wind energy before a LIPA board meeting Thursday, despite indications that LIPA staff may already be leaning against one large wind-farm proposal.
The activists plan to present LIPA with a petition carrying 20,000 signatures that expresses support for wind energy on Long Island, according to the Sierra Club, which is participating.
The rally comes as LIPA staffers over the past week briefed officials on their analysis of an offshore wind proposal by Rhode Island-based Deepwater Wind that shows it may be too costly, sources said. The project was bid as part of a larger LIPA request for proposals for up to 280 megawatts of renewable energy in October 2013.
The 210-megawatt Deepwater proposal would place 35 giant turbines in waters 30 miles from Montauk Point and cost about $1.5 billion, including a power line to Southampton. The facility would power about 150,000 homes, proponents say.
Elements of the Deepwater proposal could be too costly for LIPA compared with other bidders, including a large number of solar energy proposals, the sources said. Cost considerations are particularly sensitive to LIPA now as PSEG Long Island prepares a rate plan that many expect will request three years of rate increases, starting in 2016. PSEG has said it is too early to discuss the rate plan.
LIPA spokesman Michael Deering said the authority would not comment on "rumors or speculation" concerning the wind farm proposal.
He said LIPA and PSEG Long Island were on schedule to recommend finalists to the LIPA board in December. "Until then, no decision has or will be made," Deering said.
Deepwater chief executive Jeffrey Grybowski said the company had not been officially contacted by LIPA about its proposal. "We're still very optimistic," he said. "We have a very strong proposal here."
If LIPA were to remove the Deepwater project from the list, it could augment its request for bids for about 100 megawatts of additional solar power, the sources said. Several large solar projects, including a 103-megawatt solar array planned for Calverton, already have been bid as part of the proposal request, the sources said.
East Hampton Supervisor Larry Cantwell, who has signed a letter to be presented to the board from the town expressing support for the wind farm, said Wednesday he was disappointed to hear that LIPA staff may have "reservations about exploring offshore as one of the solutions to our energy needs."
Cantwell said nixing the wind project would be a mistake.
"At some point, the state of New York has to step in here and make it clear that they want renewable energy in our state," he said. "My concern is we're going to fall back on fossil-fuel-based sources and not take advantage of modern technology. To give up on wind is shortsighted."