Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington recently sponsored an informational meeting regarding wind power, which has gotten a lot of attention from both supporters and detractors.
Bruce Humenik of LIPA and Coke Coakley of FPL Energy gave a very informative presentation at the Port Washington Library about the Long Island Offshore Wind Park
The invited guests were Louis "Coke" Coakley from FPL Energy, program manager for the Long Island Offshore Wind Farm and Bruce Humenik, senior vice president of Applied Energy Group, Inc. (AEG), consultant to and representing LIPA. Coakley and Humenik made a presentation on wind farms in general and specifically on the wind park proposed for the South Shore of Long Island. Coakley began by pointing out that they are still at the beginning of the process. "There are still a lot of studies to be done, and a lot of approvals to be gotten," he said. There is ample opportunity for community input, and he invited the community to send comments. Comments can be sent to www.mms.gov, which also has information about the wind park. (From the home page, search for "LIOWP") Information can also be found at www.lipower.org/cei - a LIPA site. (From the home page, click on "Wind Energy.")
The Long Island project, he said, is a state-of-the-art 140-megawatt offshore wind park with 40 wind turbines. The towers are 260 feet high, and are spaced one-third to one-half mile apart. Coakley said that they are designed for hurricane force wind and added, "They are designed to minimize visual and environmental impact." There is an underground transmission cable that will feed the power to the substation. "Most of the construction equipment comes from Europe," Coakley said. He showed pictures of a wind park in Denmark, commenting, "See how it fades off in the distance. The presenters pointed out that wind power has been in use in a number of European countries for some time, in some cases supplying up to 15 or 20 percent of their power needs.
The Long Island Offshore Wind Park is located southeast of Jones Beach and southwest of Robert Moses State Park. It covers an 8-square-mile area and, according to FPL, "will be one of the largest renewable projects in New York State." Humenik said that the site was chosen because it met certain criteria, among them required wind speed, required water depth, and a minimum distance from the shore. It also took into account known bird and fish migratory routes, shipping lanes and navigation, sensitive habitats, underwater structure, and ability to interconnect to the LIPA electric grid without infrastructure changes. Humenik provided details about the data collection process, which he said has been going on for three to four years, and continues.
Humenik showed photo simulations of how the wind park would look from Jones Beach and from Gilgo Beach, stating that on a hot, hazy summer day the visual impact would be minimal. He reiterated that many approvals will be necessary before the wind project becomes a reality. He estimated that there will be public hearings in 2006-8, and that they hope to have the project in operation by 2008.
Among the benefits cited by the presenters were: an estimated 13.5 million barrels of oil savings over the life of the project, clean electricity for approximately 44,000 Long Island homes, and avoidance of significant amounts of air pollutants. In addition, they stated that the wind park will generate revenues for local vendors and create jobs during the construction phase, which is expected to last approximately 20 months.
Curt Trinko, chairman of RFMBPW moderated a lively question-and-answer period. Jennifer Wilson Pines, speaking for the North Shore Audubon Society, pointed out that this chapter of Audubon has not yet approved the plan for Long Island. (Editor's note: A handout provided by the presenters contained an article stating that the Massachusetts Audubon Society has given a "preliminary blessing" to a large-scale project off Cape Cod.) She questioned some of the data collection regarding migratory patterns and threats to birds. Coakley responded, in part, "Thank you for your comments. There is a lot more work to be done, and we will appreciate Audubon's input." Charles A. Hersh, a retired electrical engineer who, according to the speakers, has attended a number of other meetings, said that he believes that the wind farm should not be built at all. He claimed that the money would be better spent rebuilding and upgrading power plants. "It's just not worth it," he said. Other issues brought up were the effects of the underwater structure, the impact of lightning and hurricanes, costs, the lifespan of the wind park (answer: approximately 30 years), and whether the power generation correlates positively or inversely with seasonal usage.
Residents board member Steve Kaplan commented that he has seen them in Europe and elsewhere, and found them aesthetically pleasing. "Better than oil rigs and so forth," he said. He added, "I don't remember hearing any noise, but the people on the South Shore claim there will be noise." Later in the meeting, another attendee said that she, too, had visited wind parks and found no noise or visual problem with them. Coakley commented that, in fact, in many areas the wind parks have become a tourist attraction and an environmental learning activity. Eric Pick, architect and RFMBPW board member, asked if there was a master plan for other parts of Long Island if the project his successful. Coakley responded that is organization does not have a master plan nor, to the best of his knowledge, does LIPA.
Many informational handouts were made available.
Jennifer Rimmer, executive director of RFMBPW, said that the group will be presenting a series of forums on renewable energy issues. She said, "With the increasing price of oil and the environmental effects, we have an immediate need for renewable energy sources." She hastened to add, however, that RFMBPW has not taken a position on the Long Island Offshore Wind Park. "Our only purpose is to provide information to the community," she said.