A proposed wind farm off Long Island's coast got a boost Wednesday when state power authorities agreed to seek a lease for thousands of acres of land under the Atlantic Ocean now controlled by federal officials.
The move was the first concrete step forward for the project, which could cost several billion dollars and would provide 350 to 700 megawatts of electricity - enough to power up to 200,000 of Long Island's 1 million homes.
"You don't go out leasing 65,000 acres of underwater land and not have some serious interest in the project," he said.
Kevin Law, president and chief executive officer of the Long Island Power Authority, called the move "a giant step forward toward continued exploration for what could be the country's largest offshore wind project."
The project would be located 13 to 15 miles off the coasts of Nassau County and the Rockaways, and could be extended into waters off western Suffolk County, Kessel said. It would involve 120 to 240 turbines, which would rest on underwater platforms.
Kessel said the turbines, up to 400 feet high, would be so far off the coast they would be all but impossible to see from land with the naked eye. A 40-turbine project proposed off Jones Beach tanked in 2007 after opposition arose, but those proposed turbines would have been 3 1/2 to 5 miles off the coast.
NYPA authorized Kessel to seek a lease for 64,500 acres of land in part because LIPA by law can do so only in state-controlled waters. Kessel said a feasibility study on the project should be finished by early fall, and if it appears practical, the partners would move ahead.
Kessel said NYPA already has had discussions with the division of the U.S. Department of the Interior, which must approve the lease. "I'm confident we'll be granted this lease quickly," he said.
While Kessel said he was optimistic the project could become reality, Jim Hutchinson of the Galloway, N.J.-based Recreational Fishing Alliance, has said previously that his group and other anglers "will have some serious concerns about access rights" within the "very productive, historic fishing grounds."