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Mixed reviews for South Shore wind farm

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If Long Beach residents are concerned about a private company’s $3 billion proposal to build a 174-turbine wind farm 15 miles off the South Shore, few of them voiced it at a virtual hearing on the matter on July 8.

Only a handful of people commented at the second hearing held by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on a proposal by the Norway-based Equinor to build the Empire Wind project.

Equinor has been awarded contracts by New York state, the first of which was granted in 2019 to supply 816 megawatts of power to the state grid, connecting in Brooklyn. A second contract, for 1,260 megawatts, was awarded in January for Long Island’s South Shore.

What is key for Long Beach is a part of the project that calls for two offshore substations to collect the power, which would be routed by cables to one or more of several potential sites in Brooklyn. A Long Beach cable would also be connected to an Equinor substation, and to the Long Island Power Authority grid by way of a substation in Island Park. That cable could run under the barrier island.

Long Beach would not be involved in the overall approval process, but would have a say in the underground cable’s location.

Only one person who tuned in to the virtual meeting talked about the impact on Long Beach. That was Michael Halpern, of Silver Spring, Md. He said his mother, Diane Halpern, died in 2002 and had been cremated, her ashes buried in the sand off Riverside Boulevard. He said she loved the view of the Atlantic Ocean, and so did he.

“I’m very concerned about the construction” of the turbines, Halpern said. “It would disturb me to see these turbines.” He said he did not oppose wind power, but the wind farm “should not be off the coast of Long Beach.”

“To build turbines on this site is sacrilegious,” Halpern said. He said his great-grandmother lived in the King David nursing home in Long Beach, and he has other connections to the area.

Equinor officials said the 951-foot-tall turbines would not be seen from shore. If the project were approved, the first turbine could be up by 2025.

A representative of commercial fishing organizations repeated their opposition to the project, while those seeking more jobs for the region favored it.

David Wallace, of the Cambridge, Md.-based Wallace & Associates, which represents the clamming industry in southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, said that fishing would be impacted by the turbines.

“We plan to make this very clear,” Wallace said. “We are not interested in being collateral damage to electric utilities.”

He said that commercial fishermen have proposed that wind farm developers put up funds to compensate for the loss of fishing grounds.

Mariah Dignan, Long Island lead for Climate Jobs New York, a statewide coalition of labor unions advancing a pro-climate and pro-worker agenda, said the project would create 6,500 new jobs, adding $12 billion to the economy.

“This is a moment when we should take action on a clean-energy, low-carbon future,” Dignan said. “We can help launch that with Empire Wind.”

Caroline Hahn, of the New York League of Conservation Voters, an environmental group, said the organization was “very excited to see Empire Wind go forward” because of the jobs it could bring and the steps toward clean energy that it would take.

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Long Beach Democrat and the chairman of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, did not take part in the virtual meeting, but said in a statement that “placing wind turbines off the coast of Long Beach is a bold idea that will help residents power not only their homes, but the local economy.

“This project,” Kaminsky continued, “is an integral part of our state’s commitment to our renewable energy goals, outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act I authored, and this public meeting, and the many more to follow, are essential to ensure that the project works for residents of the South Shore of Nassau County.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the CLCPA in 2019.

Tom Baracca, of East Meadow, who worked on a LIPA wind project 20 years ago, said, “It’s time for renewable energy to be brought into New York.”

And David Rysdahl, of Brooklyn, said that he and his wife were considering starting a family. “I’m afraid of what I see in the future,” Rysdahl said. “My kids will ask me, what did I do” about the environment. “That’s why I’m calling in support of Empire Wind.”

The project would be the largest wind farm in New York state, and would produce more than 2,000 megawatts of power. The Long Beach portion would supply power to about 800,000 customers, while the Brooklyn portion would supply 500,000 customers.