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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Scott Brinton
Where, oh where, is Long Island's wind farm?

I ran for 45 minutes over the seashell-coated paths and up and down the steep hills of Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve in Merrick last Saturday, and I didn’t meet a soul, which was surprising and strange, even a little eerie. Solitude is a foreign concept in a populous suburb like Nassau County.

But there I was at 7:30 a.m., by myself, plodding through the bitter cold — a thermometer at the entrance to this Town of Hempstead park registered 14 degrees. Have I lost my mind? I wondered.

And then it struck me. In the distance, across the wetlands and bays that shimmered in the early-morning sunlight, stood Hempstead’s first and only electric-generating windmill. Located at the town’s Department of Conservation and Waterways on Lido Boulevard in Lido Beach, it looked like a faint, white pinwheel on the horizon.

I stopped for a moment and marveled at it, with ice-covered mud flats stretching in all directions around me. Then I thought about how pitiful it is that we have but one windmill on the South Shore.

We were supposed to have 40 or more wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean, 3½ to 4½ miles off Jones Beach, which would have met 1 to 2 percent of Long Island’s electricity needs — pollution-free. But in August 2007, despite public opinion polls showing strong support for an offshore wind farm, then Long Island Power Authority President and CEO Kevin Law scuttled the plan, saying it would cost too much. It would have raised a typical homeowner’s electric rate by $2.50 a month.

The wind farm was more than a decade in the planning. A developer had been selected. But Law unilaterally nixed the project shortly after he became LIPA’s head. A year later, he proposed a wind farm five times as large off the coast of Queens. Then he left LIPA in 2010.

Long Island still doesn’t have a wind farm, even though it’s perfectly situated in the Atlantic to generate wind power. You only have to spend a few minutes in Long Beach on a breezy day to understand that. To me, it’s like standing beside Niagara Falls and saying, “My, what a pretty waterfall,” and forgetting that, oh, yeah, it’s also a hydropower workhorse.

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