2011-08-26 / Top Stories

Rockaway Wind Farm On Back Burner

By Howard Schwach

It was a dream that will probably not ever see fruition. There is would be, fifteen miles off the coast in the Rockaways, hundreds of wind turbines that would one day power the community’s electrical needs and begin the end of the need for foreign fuel.

First announced in 2008 and endorsed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the massive offshore wind farm was set to start spinning by 2015. Currently, it is sputtering, officials say.

Jonathan Foster, the vice chairman of the New York Power Authority, whose chief executive officer just resigned, told NY1 News this week the project is not at the top of the agency’s priority list.

“At this point, with our leadership somewhat in flux and having also announced two other major projects, the Hudson Transmission Project and also Recharge New York, we’ve got a full plate,” said Foster.

It has been more than a year since the Power Authority got approval to apply for a federal lease on the ocean floor, but they have yet to apply. The authority also just withdrew a key application with the state’s independent power operator. A spokesperson could not give a timeline for the project and called the application premature, and said environmental and economic studies are ongoing. Large-scale offshore wind projects have had trouble gaining traction in the United States. Advocates say it has mostly to do with economics and a lack of enthusiasm for wind power. “It’s more expensive, yes, because it hasn’t been tried,” said Kit Kennedy of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “But again, you need to put these projects in. You need to get the experience and then the cost comes down.”

An economic analysis found it would cost between $2.3 billion and $4.7 billion.

The initial plan envisioned an offshore farm between 350 MW, or 97 turbines, and 750 MW, or 194 turbines.

Rockaways officials are still trying to get the project back on course. “I am going to be communicating with the new head of the Power Authority, when we get a clear understanding of who that is, and try to push this idea,” said State Senator Malcolm Smith. “This is not just for the Rockaways. This is for something that is going to impact the entire city and the entire state.”

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