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LIPA moves ahead on green energy plan, despite PSEG call for delay

Transmission towers carry power lines through Suffolk County

Transmission towers carry power lines through Suffolk County on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

LIPA is moving ahead with its plans for a big, new green energy source, including a proposed $1 billion wind farm, amid pressure from environmental groups.

PSEG, in a report earlier this month, recommended that the Long Island Power Authority delay a series of new or pending projects, including the massive Caithness II power plant, certain transmission and natural gas infrastructure upgrades, and a bid to overhaul smaller generators that produce power during peak times.

PSEG said LIPA already had enough power to supply the grid until 2020-22, and that PSEG needed 12 to 18 months to work on a new energy resource plan for Long Island.

In a statement Wednesday, LIPA affirmed that the plan would move forward, and that PSEG was on board.

The "authority and PSEG Long Island are committed, working together, and proceeding as planned to provide recommendations for finalists for the procurement of up to 280 megawatts of renewable energy to the [LIPA] board of trustees in December," spokesman Michael Deering said in an email.

PSEG officially took over management of the LIPA system in January, but the power markets function remains with LIPA until Dec. 31. PSEG takes on that power planning function formally on Jan. 1.

Among the projects on the list was a 280-megawatt renewable energy proposal for which LIPA had already sought bids. Bidders include a $1 billion plan by Rhode Island-based Deepwater Wind to erect wind turbines off that state's coast, with up to 200 megawatts of power sent back to Long Island via undersea cables.

Environmental groups had pushed hard for the green energy proposal to remain on track, given the potentially long lead time it's expected to take for permits and construction.

Lisa Dix, a representative of the Sierra Club, in a statement called it "unacceptable to further delay a process that has already taken far too long." Hers was among eight state and local groups that argued against any PSEG delay in the project.

Deering wasn't immediately able to specify if the board would authorize LIPA to sign a contract with the winning bidder by year-end. Nevertheless, Deering said, "Investing in and advancing renewables to diversify our energy portfolio, reduce our carbon footprint, stimulate green businesses and create green jobs has been and continues to be of the highest priority" for LIPA.

PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir deferred to LIPA's statement.

Deepwater Wind's $1 billion plan for LIPA includes 35 turbines off the Rhode Island coast that the company said would not be visible from Long Island. Deepwater said it has already paid $3.8 million for the federal lease for 256 square miles of ocean waters for the wind farm.

A PSEG Long Island sister company, PSEG Renewable Generation, has a joint venture with Deepwater Wind called Garden State Offshore Energy to build a 350-megawatt wind farm off the New Jersey coast.

"We're counting on Governor [Andrew M.] Cuomo to keep his promise to Long Islanders and push LIPA and PSEG to make offshore wind a reality this year," the Sierra Club's Dix said.

LIPA, Con Edison and the New York Power Authority have had a long-stalled effort to construct a wind farm in waters off Long Beach. Two other companies are said to be competing for that project, the state has said.

LIPA previously abandoned a proposal to build a 40-turbine wind farm off Jones Beach, citing its $800 million-plus expense.

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