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United States

Developer picked for first offshore project -- LIPA approves selection

New York's Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) has approved the authority's selection of FPL Energy to develop its 140 MW offshore wind project. "The LIPA board unanimously voted in favour. I'm looking forward to seeing this large renewable energy project built on Long Island," says Gordian Raacke, head of Renewable Energy Long Island and one of the project's initial proponents. FPL and LIPA will start negotiating a power purchase immediately, says LIPA's Burt Cunningham.

"We are proposing 40-50 GE or Vestas turbines arranged in a diamond shaped cluster," says FPL's Steve Stengel. The site chosen by FPL is within the area preferred by LIPA, about eight miles south-east of Jones Beach. "The nearest turbine to landfall will be at least three miles," says Stengel. He points out that the project must still undergo "extensive environmental and regulatory review." It could still become the first to be built in US waters.

Not everyone is happy about the selection of FPL. Also in the running was Peter Mandlestam's Bluewater Wind, a local company which had done several years of community outreach to build support for the project. As a result, some renewable energy advocates have expressed disappointment at the selection of late-comer FPL.

Mandlestam is not officially commenting on the decision, but dismisses talk of legal action. "We are not contemplating a lawsuit against anyone," he says. "We are not aware of any lawsuits being contemplated by others." He adds that Bluewater is "in the wind business, not the lawsuit business."

Some political figures in New York state are unhappy that FPL Energy hired lobbyist Alfonse D'Amato to plead its bid for the offshore contract with government officials. D'Amato is a former Republican Senator, sanctioned for ethics violations during his time in the US Senate and has been the subject of repeated ethics investigations since being ousted by voters from office in 1998. His ties to the administration of New York governor George Pataki are currently under investigation in the New York State Assembly. Referring to the offshore wind plan, assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who has initiated some of the investigations, says: "This project will never go anywhere."

FPL's Stengel confirms the company hired D'Amato, but declines to discuss the reasons for that decision.

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