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German company eyes wind farm project off Fire Island

A German renewable-energy company has submitted an unsolicited bid for more than 40,000 acres of water rights due south of Fire Island for the first phase of a wind-turbine array of up to 400 megawatts.

Maps submitted with the project indicate it would place 30 to 50 turbines around 600 feet tall in an area that extends from Bayport to Moriches, starting around 12 miles from shore.

The project would be east of another wind-energy area that was federally auctioned in December to Norway-based Statoil for $42 million. Both projects, which would require numerous state and federal permits, are in areas considered vital to fishing interests; the Statoil project is already the subject of a federal lawsuit seeking to block it and preserve squid, scallop and bottom-fishing grounds.

Called the NY4 Excelsior Wind Park, the latest project is being proposed by PNE Wind, a German developer of onshore and offshore wind projects with a U.S. base in Chicago.

Maps submitted by PNE show two rectangular parcels consisting of a total 40,920 acres. PNE said the 300- to 400-megawatt project would connect to the LIPA grid at “Roland Road,” an apparent reference to the Ruland Road substation in Melville. A megawatt of offshore wind power can provide enough energy for around 320 homes, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

PNE officials didn’t return calls seeking comment.

PNE has made a concurrent unsolicited bids for two wind-energy areas off the Massachusetts coast, according to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which announced the offers Friday, though the proposal is dated December 2016. Given the desirability of the lease area won by Statoil, it seems likely that competing offers will be made for the PNE-proposed wind area off Long Island. A bureau spokeswoman said a public notice would be sent out to gauge interest from other bidders in the area.

PNE said the location was attractive because of Long Island and New York’s relatively high price of electricity, strong winds, shallow water depths and “general support of offshore wind.”

LIPA in January approved a 15-turbine project with Deepwater Wind to be built off the Rhode Island coast by 2022. It will cost $740 million to build, while selling an estimated $1.46 billion in electricity to LIPA customers over 20 years.

PNE said it has built some 200 onshore wind farms with 2,400 megawatts of capacity. It’s also active in offshore wind, with some 900 megawatts of turbines in service in Germany.

The newly proposed project’s anticipated eight- to 10-year timetable for completion appears to include anticipated LIPA grid upgrades. PNE materials noted constraints of the Long Island grid’s power cables and “considerable congestion levels in the area.”

Without specifics, the company said it expects the project to be a source of jobs in the region, for the assembly, storage and management of a port for wind construction.

Potential staging areas for wind-turbine assembly include ports in Staten Island, the Erie Basin and Brooklyn, PNE said, while operations and maintenance hubs could be located in Montauk, Greenport, Ocean Beach Habor and Kismit Harbor.

One local industry is already weighing in against project.

“The idea that you can just show up and stick a flag in the ocean floor and say it’s mine without regard to the fishing community it will displace is unconscionable and un-American,” said Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association.

She said the area listed on the PNE maps is currently fished for scallops, surf clams, scup and black sea bass, among others.

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