UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — A New York utility plans to approve a wind farm off eastern Long Island that it says would be the nation's largest offshore wind energy project built to date.
The project would be the first phase of a more ambitious effort to construct hundreds of electricity-producing turbines in the Atlantic Ocean in the coming years.
The announcement that the Long Island Power Authority plans to approve a proposed 90-megawatt, 15-turbine wind farm in U.S. waters east of Montauk at a meeting next week was greeted enthusiastically by energy experts, elected officials and environmentalists.
"This is obviously an important development," said Jeffrey Firestone, a professor at the University of Delaware and an expert on offshore wind. "Hopefully, this will be something toward facilitating a more regional approach to the need for offshore wind energy."
The U.S. lags behind Europe and others in development of offshore wind energy because of regulatory hurdles and opposition from fossil fuel and fishing interests, among other challenges. Many wind farms in Europe are already producing hundreds of megawatts of power.
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has issued several leases for wind projects along the Atlantic coast, but none have come to fruition yet. LIPA said its project would be the next one built after one opens near Block Island, Rhode Island, later this year.
"This is the first in New York, it's the largest to date, but we're looking at this and seeing a tremendous offshore wind resource that will be developed and it's not the last," LIPA chief executive officer Thomas Falcone said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.
"I think this is a very big step ... for New York, but also for the United States."
LIPA is awarding the project to Deepwater Wind. That company is working on the Rhode Island wind farm, which will feature five turbines creating 30 megawatts of power. Deepwater Wind would build and own the New York project, selling power to LIPA; financial terms still need to be negotiated. Falcone said he expected a final agreement by early next year.
"New York is boldly leading the way on a clean-energy revolution that will transform the nation's energy future," Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said in a statement.
The LIPA project, which would power approximately 50,000 homes, is considered the first phase in Deepwater Wind's ambitions to eventually build turbines producing 1,000 megawatts of power in the waters between eastern Long Island, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
Falcone said because Deepwater Wind has already acquired the lease for the site in 2013 and has already performed initial marine surveys, construction could be expedited and power could be reaching customers by the end of 2022.
The turbines would be placed about 30 miles offshore, putting them over the horizon and out of view of land.
A scallop industry trade organization, the Fisheries Survival Fund, has raised concerns about some wind farm proposals, but not this one. Important scallop areas were removed from the possible lease areas for this wind farm, said Drew Minkiewicz, an attorney for the fund. He cautioned that other commercial fishermen could raise objections.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the LIPA project will "help achieve the state's ambitious goal of supplying 50 percent of our electricity from renewable energy by 2030."
LIPA also is planning to build two new battery energy storage facilities with a company called LI Energy. The facilities will consist of lithium-ion battery technology designed and installed by General Electric; they will be used when LIPA is facing peak demand for electricity.
Federal officials announced earlier this year plans to auction the rights to build a wind farm on a 127-square-mile wedge, 11 miles south of Long Island's popular Jones Beach. That project, which has the backing of New York state officials, still faces regulatory and other hurdles before it can proceed.
Associated Press writer Jennifer McDermott in Providence, Rhode Island, contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show Long Island Power Authority will contract with company to purchase energy from wind farm, not construct it. It also has been corrected to show that the Rhode Island project under construction is in state waters and that different project would be in federal waters, and to show that the company slated to build battery storage facilities is LI Energy, not Deepwater Wind.
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