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Long island shows the way offshore

While the chaos continues on Cape Cod (main story), a 100 MW, 33 turbine project off the south coast of Long Island, New York, has moved forward slowly, but very steadily and could become the first offshore project to go online in the United States. After holding extensive community meetings and building local support, the Sustainable Energy Alliance (SEA) and the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) are now actively seeking construction proposals from wind power developers.

"It would be about a six square mile footprint, so we're not talking a major massive project here," says SEA's Kathleen Whitley. Many people, including those who actively support offshore wind, have complained that the Cape Cod project is simply too large, given both its location and the fact that it is the first such project in the nation. Whitley says the Long Island project has intentionally remained small and that its community-based approach has helped avoid the kind of controversy generated by Cape Cod. "We're a partnership between LIPA and many other groups, environmental and civic, who support offshore wind," she says.

Among its locally based support groups are the LI Neighborhood Network, the Citizens Advisory Panel, the Citizens Campaign for the Environment and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The project is enthusiastically supported by state government and the New York State governor's office. LIPA, a quasi-governmental agency has been intimately involved in its planning and execution; it will supply funding for connecting the project to the island's electric grid and will also buy the power. Whitley says the enthusiasm appears to be high throughout Long Island. A poll conducted by Newsday, a well-respected Long Island daily newspaper, revealed that more than 80% of the island's population approved of the idea of a local offshore wind farm.

"We're having massive public hearings all across Long Island right now," Whitley says. "We're giving the public a chance to come out and so far we're getting some good public support for wind power. We want those who are in the industry to know, there's an awful lot of potential here."

A study conducted in early 2002 said the island had a potential for more than 5000 MW of offshore wind. If this first project is successful, there may be others built. "If companies want to invest in wind, they should come here," Whitley says.

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