Is fossil fuel-generated energy gone with the wind?


Island Park doesn’t generate daily headlines — and residents like it that way. This historic community is best known for its great public schools and library, and a sense of community that make it an appealing place to live. Generations of residents value their village and don’t see many reasons to change. Why mess with hometown perfection?
Yet for over 60 years, the village has dealt with air pollution and other problems stemming from its hulking neighbor, the E.F. Barrett Power Station — a familiar landmark that has cast a literal shadow for generations. It also reflects a fossil-fueled technology that has been mandated to disappear. And after a bitter fight between Island Park and the Long Island Power Authority over Barrett’s property taxes, they have been dramatically reduced, which will now impact village homeowners.
New York state’s march to embrace an energy future free of fossil-fuel emissions comes at an interesting time. An opportunity has arrived in the form of offshore wind. Whether or not the promised jobs and economic activity from this multi-billion-dollar industry ever emerge, there is a “green” wind farm project being proposed for some 15 miles off Nassau County’s South Shore. The cable bringing its power to our region’s electric grid would route underground to a proposed substation near the Barrett plant.
Because that’s what we Long Islanders do, local critics have launched a variety of campaigns opposed to the plan. From suggesting the electromagnetic fields generated by the underground cable will cause deformities to attacking the corporate credentials of the international company proposing to build the wind farm, Equinor, they have sought to block its construction.
Science will have to address some of those concerns, but if recent history reveals anything, the Neptune cable, finished in 2007, runs power 65 miles from New Jersey to beneath Jones Beach before heading north to a substation. None of the millions of beach-goers who walk and swim above it have reported electromagnetic distress, much less been aware of the cable’s presence.

For Island Park, the real question will be whether the long-term financial benefits of this project will outweigh the inconvenience of a cable trench being dug to connect wind power to a substation. And the developers would have to make sure the substation doesn’t impinge on the village’s quality of life.
Equinor has stated that it is prepared to offer significant economic benefits and property tax revenue to the village in exchange for the ability to “come ashore.” Other Long island townships have already done the economic and environmental calculations on similar wind farm developments off their shores and determined that they have come up with a winning hand for their taxpayers. Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine negotiated a $169 million deal for hosting a cable landing. In what has been a long and successful tenure as town supervisor, that may well become one of his lasting legacies to town taxpayers.
In Island Park, Oceanside and Long Beach, there needs to be a thoughtful, strategic review of the pros and cons, the science and the facts at a time when fossil fuels that power facilities like Barrett are going away.
Some say wind power is a big lie, claiming that our cable and AC will go out when the breeze dies. I’m not an energy scientist, but those who manage the grid say the Europeans figured out long ago how to store electricity produced by their wind farms so it can be released as needed when the winds weaken. Others talk about the industrialization of the ocean, but you need only look out at the parade of massive freighters off the South Shore waiting for space at the Jersey docks to deliver our latest smartphones to realize that that ship, so to speak, sailed a long time ago.
Will offshore wind amount to everything New York state is promising? The jury is very much still out. But for Island Park residents looking at the advantages and disadvantages of Equinor’s cable connection proposal at a time when Barrett’s payday is over, there is much to discuss over a Sunday family dinner.

Ronald J. Rosenberg has been an attorney for 42 years, concentrating in commercial litigation and transactions, and real estate, municipal, zoning and land use law. He founded the Garden City law firm Rosenberg Calica & Birney in 1999.