An architect's rendering of the Duffy Avenue converter station.
Photo courtesy of Neptune
Representatives from the LIPA and the New York State Department of Public Service held two informational forums at Island Trees High School on March 10 to discuss plans for a 65-mile electric underwater and underground direct-current line from New Jersey to New Cassel. In addition, plans are also in the works for LIPA to construct a converter substation on Duffy Avenue on the Hicksville/New Cassel border as well as further utilizing a substation located on Newbridge Road in Levittown. The multi-million dollar project is intended to help LIPA upgrade its electrical capacity as well as diversify its sources of power to serve ever-increasing customer demand.
In September 2004, the Long Island Power Authority Board of Trustees approved a 20-year contract with a company called Neptune to construct and operate an undersea high-voltage transmission capable of supplying some 660 megawatts of electricity to Long Island by 2007. With one megawatt enough to support 1,000 average-size homes, LIPA would be able to provide power to 660,000 homes annually through the Neptune system.
According to the Neptune website (www.NeptuneRTS.com), LIPA will
have access to one of the richest and most diverse sources of low-cost electrical capacity and energy in the country. Neptune will give LIPA an off-island purchase point where it can purchase these products at prices that are heavily discounted compared with Long Island.
"We could either build new power plants on Long Island or find an
alternative way to import electricity," said Chris Hocker, vice president of project planning for Neptune. "This way is much more preferable and it will create another major path for electricity to flow to Long Island. It is a reliable means of bringing less expensive electricity to Long Island."
In a published statement, Richard Kessel, chairman of LIPA, said, "The Neptune cable project will provide Long Island with the opportunity to significantly diversify its energy resource options." He added that through this project, "LIPA will be able to tap the Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey power markets directly for the first time and acquire power that is priced very competitively because of the diversity of generation resources in that area."
The transmission line itself consists of a bundle of three cables, approximately nine inches in diameter, which will extend from Sayreville, NJ at the Raritan River, just off exit 9 of the New Jersey Turnpike, and travel some 51 miles beneath the New York Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean at a target depth of approximately four feet below the seabed. After making landfall some 1,000 feet offshore of Jones Island, south of Jones Beach, the cable will be installed underground beneath the Wantagh State Parkway for a distance of approximately 14 miles. It will head north to the Duffy Avenue converter station before heading back under the Wantagh Parkway to the Newbridge Road substation in Levittown where it will interconnect with the LIPA system. Plans are now also in the works to further utilize an already existing substation in East Garden City and Melville.
"The existing facilities are not big enough to handle this amount of power," explained Paul Agresta, assistant council for the New York State Department of Public Service, the reviewers of LIPA's proposal. "They would add more equipment similar to what is already there in these existing substations."
According to the Neptune website, the cable is a transmission connection to the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland (PJM) system and, as a result, will increase the capacity and energy available to Long Island in a more flexible and reliable manner than simply siting new generating facilities on Long Island. In addition, the cable will add capacity and make available more energy without adding local impacts associated with new power generation as well as make more energy available relatively quickly compared to the long process of siting and permitting new generation plants because the cable connects to existing resources.
Through this project, the amount of electrical capacity and energy available to Long Island electricity consumers will be increased. According to LIPA spokesperson Bert Cunningham, the cable will ease the ever-growing electricity demand on Long Island as well as help LIPA tap into a market that will allow us to import electricity at much more competitive prices and keep rates down.
"This will enable us to reach another source of supply and get power from the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland power grid," said Cunningham. "We will be able to generate power cheaper by tapping into them [which will mean] significant savings and help keep costs down."
Currently, 82 percent of electricity required by Long Island is required by law to be produced here while the remaining comes from outside sources. According to Cunningham, Long Island's electricity is dependent on five major power plants and about 70 smaller peaking units. "The more flexibility we have to get into other power sources, the better we will be in meeting peak power demands," he said. "It is helpful to add to resources if something happens to other power lines."
In addition to assisting Long Island's growing demand for electricity, the project will curb prices by importing cheaper energy. According to Cunningham, through this project, LIPA will pay an annual lease fee to Neptune and send out RFPs to buy power, thus saving the power authority approximately $150 million for fuel costs to generate electricity throughout Long Island. In addition, it will bolster the power grid against wide blackouts such as the one in August 2003.
As of press time, the project was approved by the New York State Public Service Commission, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers. Preliminary site plans have been submitted to the state Department of Transportation and the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation.
"Our job is to give it an independent look and give our opinion," Agresta said.
Legislator Dennis Dunne, Sr. attended the second information forum and placed some comments on record with the administrative law judge assigned to the case, William Bouteiller.
"I went there just to find out and make sure that the people's interests are taken seriously," Legislator Dunne said. "The concerns that I thought would be on most people's minds were health effects."
Dunne continued on to comment that not only LIPA, but the electric community at large, says that the EMF's (electric magnetic fields) have been safe all along and will continue to be with the proper safeguards in place.
"There isn't a block in the Levittown community that has a house that hasn't expanded sideways, backwards or upwards," Legislator Dunne explained. "With that, carries the need for more electricity. With this need we should have a fail-safe system for getting it [electricity] into our community."
For those who have missed hearings and forums in the past, persons may mail comments to Jaclyn A. Brilling, secretary, Public Service Commission, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12223-1350. Comments should refer to Case 04-T-1687 - LIPA 345 Kv Electric Facility Proposal. Statements may also be made over the phone by calling the state's toll free opinion line at 800-355-2120. Written comments may be submitted online using the PSC Comment Form by visiting www.dps.state.ny.us. For more information on the project and its progress visit www.lipower.org or www.neptuneRTS.com.
"We encourage people to write in," Administrative Law Judge William Bouteiller said. "We hope that by the end of the process, all of the questions and concerns are answered."