2009-01-16 / Community

LIPA To Open Service Center, Considering Wind Power

By Nicholas Briano

President and CEO Kevin Law from Long Island Power Authority speaks to Community Board 14 this week about the opening of a new customer service center in Rockaway. President and CEO Kevin Law from Long Island Power Authority speaks to Community Board 14 this week about the opening of a new customer service center in Rockaway. President and CEO of Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), Kevin Law, announced the future opening of a customer service center in Rockaway Park and discussed the ongoing possibility of wind power at this month's Community Board 14 meeting.

The new LIPA walk-in customer service center is planned for an April opening. Customers will be able to make service requests, ask questions and pay bills.

It will be located on Beach 102 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard in the Sands Point Professional Building, which has ample parking. The staff will consist of three customer service specialists and one supervisor.

Rockaway has not had a service center since the 1970s when LILCO closed it down, and Law says they are excited to bring the center back into the area.

"There are plenty of these service centers in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Queens should have a center and it is a disgrace that you haven't," Law said. "I am happy that under my watch you will have one."

In his presentation, Law also touched on the subject of renewable energy and its chances of becoming reality. Specifically, he discussed the ongoing talks of an offshore wind farm.

A first offshore wind farm proposal originated more than two years ago, but the $800 million project, planned offshore of Jones Beach, was scratched when costs far exceeded initial estimates.

"The price before the shovel hit the proverbial water had escalated three times before they were even close to awarding bids," he said.

In addition, the operating and initial investment costs far exceeded what LIPA considered affordable. The cost of the energy was going to be about three times more expensive than the cost of the energy from the current power plants, Law said.

However, since then, alternative options have been discovered that would make the idea more economically feasible and acceptable to the public, Law said.

Those alternatives are part of a new proposal that could place wind turbines on the base of an oil rig 10 to 15 miles offshore Rockaway or Long Island, enabling them to be out of sightlines. Late last year Law announced that LIPA and Con Edison were working together in exploring this option.

"If we share the cost and share the power, maybe it could work," he said. "We are doing an engineer analysis right now to see if we could have some type of wind farm out in the ocean and how we could we bring the power in ways that wouldn't require a whole lot of infrastructure improvements."

Law expects the study to be concluded soon, but says there are several factors, including the transmission of the power and its reliability, that have to be considered if wind is to become a realistic possibility. He said, however, that LIPA plans to keep the public informed if they and Con Edison decide to move forward with the idea.

LIPA, which was created from the dismantling of LILCO ten years ago, has an operating budget of $4 billion a year, with about half of that going towards the cost of fuel and power. Twenty-seven percent of budget goes towards paying off their $6.6 billion dollar debt and various taxes, which contributes to rising rate costs, according to Law.

Eleven cents of every dollar goes towards taxes despite LIPA being a state and not-for-profit authority, which causes LIPA to have some of the highest rates in the country, he said.

"I could cut everyone's rates by 11 percent if we weren't paying taxes," Law continued.

He further stated that LIPA's relatively small staff of 100 isn't what drives up costs, but rather their power and fuel costs as well as the taxes and debt, which in part leaves the renewable energy talks in preliminary stages of development as costs remain a large issue.

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