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United States

Blocking tactic by powerful senators

A New York State governmental agency is seeking wind generation developers to build projects off the coast of Long Island, the heavily populated island east of New York City. The agency, called the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), will hold an informational meeting for all interested developers on June 25. At that meeting, LIPA officials will discuss their interest in sponsoring an initial offshore wind project of 100 MW on the island's southern coast.

In support of this initial project, LIPA will fund the initial interconnection costs of the wind farm with the local power grid -- an amount which is estimated to range from $40 million to as much as $70 million.

A study performed by New York State-based AWS Scientific has determined that offshore wind farms could generate as much as 5200 MW of electricity for Long Island, nearly equal to the amount of electricity currently used by the island during peak periods. LIPA would prefer starting with a small project, however, "about 100 megawatts to begin with," says LIPA's Michael Lowndes. "We're very committed to clean energy," he adds. "We have committed over $170 million to the exploration and development of clean energy."

Even with LIPA's sponsorship, officials say they believe this first project will require somewhere between three to five years development time. "We don't figure this will be a six month process that we'll breeze through," Lowndes cautions. "But we're prepared to take on these hurdles."

How the US federal government will treat offshore wind is by no means clear. Currently, a powerful political triumvirate in Massachusetts has filed legislation that, if passed, will substantially slow the development of any offshore wind development in the United States. The legislation would require a two year study of offshore wind before any further action is taken.

Filed by powerful Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, whose family (including President John F. Kennedy) has sailed off Cape Cod for generations and who would be able to see the turbines from his own home, the legislation is supported by Massachusetts Democratic Senator John F. Kerry, who portrays himself as an environmentally committed politician. Kerry, who is said to have presidential aspirations, owns a high-end home on the expensive island of Nantucket from which some of the proposed turbines may be visible, according to the local newspaper, the Cape Cod Times.

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