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Lawmaker wants LIPA lease payments to help ratepayers

As the New York Power Authority moves to build what may become the largest solar-power project in the state, a Suffolk legislator is calling for fees from a recently announced LIPA solar project to be applied toward reducing Suffolk ratepayer debt tied to the Shoreham nuclear plant.

NYPA and Gov. David A. Paterson Wednesday announced plans for a solar power project producing as much as 100 megawatts that would encourage businesses to develop solar-panel arrays around the state, including Long Island. The authority will issue a request for proposals for the arrays, which will be placed on rooftops of state and local government offices, schools and public utilities. NYPA will purchase power from developers who construct the facilities through 20-year power purchase agreements. The NYPA project could power 15,000 homes.

NYPA chief Richard Kessel said the project, valued at between $750 million and $1 billion, has wide application for Long Island. Up to 25 percent of the installations could be built on Long Island, he said. Construction will start this year and end by 2014.

The NYPA move follows a similar announcement by LIPA, which awarded two projects totaling 50 megawatts. One LIPA project, valued at $123 million, will see 60,000 solar panels installed in carports at three Suffolk rail stations and four county office buildings. Suffolk Executive Steve Levy said the $8.5 million in lease payments Suffolk will receive over 20 years for hosting solar carports will be used to reduce county taxes and preserve jobs.

Wednesday, Leg. Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) introduced legislation that would funnel the $8.5 million back toward reducing the bill Suffolk LIPA customers pay for the overassessment of the defunct Shoreham nuclear plant.

"It's a novel way to help out the ratepayers in Suffolk who really are taking it on the chin," Romaine said.

Levy spokesman Dan Aug said Levy "feels it is most pragmatic not to lock ourselves in now. . . ." He said it would be "best" to put the money into the general fund, "where it could potentially help cover a deficit some year or prevent a property tax increase." LIPA didn't have a comment at press time.

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