The New York Power Authority on Tuesday ended its quixotic push for off-shore wind farms in Lake Ontario or Lake Erie, killing the idea for financial reasons. At a meeting at the authority’s Westchester County office, NYPA trustees voted 4-0 to shelve the idea. “This was not an easy decision for us to make,” said trustee John Dyson, noting the authority has long been committed to renewable energy projects.
The vote came after Jill Anderson, an authority executive, told trustees that staff had concluded it was “not fiscally prudent at this time to proceed.”
The authority, an independent arm of state government, first proposed offshore wind development in one or both of New York’s Great Lakes in the spring of 2009. It received five proposals from private wind developers in June 2010 and since then had been reviewing them behind closed doors.
The developers were to build the turbines, which likely would have risen 450 feet or more above the water. The authority would have subsidized the project by buying its electricity at a premium price.
Anderson told trustees that despite extensive study, the authority staff “could not come up with a way to lower the subsidy to the point where it would be affordable to the authority or to customers.” The annual subsidy for a medium-sized 150-megawatt offshore project would have been $60 million to $100 million a year, she said.
Electricity from offshore turbines would have cost two to four times more than power from land-based turbines, the authority found.
The Power Authority, which operates large hydroelectric plants and other generating facilities, supplies electricity to select municipalities, nonprofits, private companies and others.
“Finally, someone has the sense to admit that the cost of GLOW is not feasible,” said Suzanne Albright, a Greece shoreline resident who became active in groups opposing an offshore wind farm and who watched the NYPA meeting on an Internet video feed.
There are no offshore wind turbines anywhere in North America. Numerous large offshore farms proposed for the Great Lakes were never built.
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NYPA’s Great Lakes offshore plan faced stiff opposition from the beginning on the grounds that the giant turbines would mar the view, affect boating and fishing, kill birds and bats and harm shoreline property values.
Driven by opponents, elected officials in Monroe County and six of the eight other counties along the lakes’ shorelines voted to oppose the idea.
The four authority trustees at the meeting Tuesday said little about the project before they voted, though several of them spoke disparagingly of opponents. Dyson said there was a “long history of opposition (to technological advances) dating back to Galileo or maybe earlier.”
Albright said she found those comments “insulting.”
“They act as though we are narrow-minded and short-sighted, when the reality is that we recognized the folly of GLOW,” she said.
The two Rochester-area residents among the seven trustees, board chairman Michael Townsend and builder R. Wayne LeChase, did not attend the meeting. A spokesman said their flight had been canceled. The pair was connected to the meeting via audio hookup, though neither said anything about the vote.
LeChase did ask how the project cancellation would be presented publicly.
“Are we going to roll out our decision in a way that puts a positive spin on it?” he asked.