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Forum: Long Island key to offshore wind farm development

Long Island lies at the center of the country’s potentially largest offshore wind-energy corridor and could play a central role in hosting, building and using power from the arrays, government officials and advocates said Tuesday.

At an offshore wind-energy forum at the Long Island Association, officials, environmental advocates and a developer suggested that the nation’s first five-turbine offshore wind farm’s near completion off Block Island marks the beginning of a U.S. wind-energy revolution that could see up to 32,000 workers place thousands of turbines all along the Eastern Seaboard.

“You have a lot of coast and a lot of wind, and it’s blowing hard enough to make it economical,” Abigail Hopper, director of the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, told more than 100 Long Islanders at the event. BOEM is overseeing leasing of federal waters from three to 200 miles off the coast. “Having the resource and the load [local electric demand] doesn’t always happen.”

Greg Matzat, senior adviser for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, agreed that there’s a “lot of energy offshore New York.” “I’ve always been amazed at how much power is out there.”

NYSERDA recently released a “blueprint” for the state’s offshore wind plan, an initiative he called a “plan for a plan,” with a master plan for the state due at the end of 2017.

Considerable work has to get done before turbines are spinning in waters off the coast. NYSERDA recently took over a project begun by LIA president Kevin Law when he was chief executive of LIPA in 2008, and the state agency plans to bid at auction for that 81,000-acre lease later this year.

If NYSERDA wins, it’s the beginning of what is expected to be a seven- to eight-year path to ultimate construction. “Our predevelopment work is already started,” Matzat said, noting NYSERDA has already begun required annual mapping of wildlife patterns by photographing thousands of miles of ocean. NYSERDA would foot the bill for countless studies needed for the project, then seek bids from developers to build it.

The state would “buy down the risk” of developing the project, offering developers guaranteed markets for the energy, and much of the costly studies already complete. Developers would agree to state guidelines that would include community input on locations and adherence to environmental rules.

NYSERDA also plans to “compete for additional wind-energy areas,” in waters off New York, he said.

Clint Plummer, vice president of development for Deepwater Wind, developer of the Block Island array and the expected winner of a LIPA South Fork wind-power plan, noted it took 8 1⁄2 years for the Block Island to move from proposal to completion. Construction was recently completed and, after testing, it’s slated to begin producing power in November.

He said there’s a $20 billion global industry for wind, and that the United States lags behind the world, but is on the verge of taking off.

The Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, which did not attend the event, has said pile-driving into the ocean floor, jet plowing the sea bottom and the impacts from the sea structures will harm fish and the sea bottom.

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