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Environmentalists to push LIPA on wind-energy development

A wind turbine tower is seen at the

A wind turbine tower is seen at the Block Island Wind Farm on Aug. 4, 2016. Credit: Deepwater Wind

It’s been five months since LIPA declared it would initiate the nation’s largest offshore wind farm and nearly as long since the state stepped in to postpone a LIPA board vote on the project. Since then, all has been quiet.

On Tuesday, local groups will gather outside the Long Island Power Authority headquarters in Uniondale before a LIPA trustee meeting to urge the authority and the state to move forward on wind energy.

Trustees are scheduled to consider a $2.24 monthly delivery-rate increase for average residential customers in 2017 and a controversial communications policy for board members, among other items.

But a vote on the wind farm, which is part of a plan to boost power sources for the South Fork, isn’t scheduled Tuesday, officials said.

The LIPA board wind farm vote originally scheduled for July would have authorized the authority to begin negotiations with developer Deepwater Wind for an eventual 20-year contract to buy energy from the 15-turbine array, which would be about 30 miles from Montauk and, along with other South Fork improvements, would cost ratepayers an average $2.48 more a month.

A senior LIPA official said the authority “continues to negotiate with Deepwater” and has made “substantial progress,” but there are still “a few open issues” that require additional work. If the contract is finalized next year instead of 2016, Deepwater would see a 20 percent reduction in a federal production tax credit for the project, which provides federal funds to subsidize renewables.

LIPA has scheduled a board meeting in January, and it’s “certainly possible” a contract could be finalized by then, the official said.

Previous LIPA board consideration of the project was halted when the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority asked that LIPA cancel a planned board meeting so the state could consider the project in the context of a larger offshore wind-energy blueprint it had planned to release within weeks. That draft blueprint was finalized in October. A NYSERDA spokeswoman wasn’t available for comment on the matter.

A spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wouldn’t comment on speculation about whether the state has given the nod for LIPA to move forward on a board vote, pointing instead to a previous statement in support of the project from Cuomo in July.

Environmentalists are stepping gingerly around the issue, holding the rally to push for wind-energy progress without openly criticizing the governor at a time when President-elect Donald Trump is about to take office on a staunchly pro-fossil fuel platform. Trump has opposed wind farms from Scotland to Jones Beach. A Trump spokeswoman didn’t return messages seeking comment.

“I’m pretty confident this is going to move forward,” said environmentalist Gordian Raacke of the LIPA wind farm. “But you don’t know. We’ve thought that before and were proven wrong.”

Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, said Tuesday’s rally is “not just about the Deepwater project. We’re calling on the governor to build an offshore wind industry for New York, and we see Deepwater as the first step.”

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