Grid system braces for upgrade with or without wind power

Deepwater’s Scope, And Perhaps Relevance, Shifting

“It’s not about East Hampton. It’s never been about East Hampton,” said Michael McDonald.

Dr. McDonald, as the coordinator of the Global Health Response and Resilience Alliance, oversaw $50 million in advanced technology programs while directing the Koop Foundation with the former U.S. surgeon general.

But as a Springs resident, he is worried about the town he calls home. “It’s not 15 wind turbines, not 100, not 400. There are going to be thousands around Long Island. Yet East Hampton is the only township currently targeted to handle the load. They’ve been lying to us all along.”

New York State is racing to meet a 2030 deadline imposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to shift to wind driven power. The state recently issued a bid request for 800 megawatts more of wind-generated power and the New York Energy Research and Development Authority will begin awarding contracts in a matter of months.

McDonald and others fear that tiny Wainscott, where Deepwater Wind plans to bury its cable carrying electric power from its South Fork Wind Project, will become Ground Zero for offshore power and used to power points west — including Manhattan. “It’s not just for East Hampton,” McDonald said. According to LIPA documents obtained by The Independent, a massive upgrade in the system is already well into the planning stages, with or without Deepwater.

Thomas Bjurlof, an industry entrepreneur and observer, said that future landing points for offshore wind power include Huntington, Holbrook, Southampton, and Shoreham, among other locations, according to documents filed with the New York Intercom Systems Operations.

Last month, Deepwater Wind was acquired by Danish wind-giant Ørsted. And just two weeks ago, PSEG — Long Island announced the size of the South Fork Wind Project would increase by 44 percent because it will now use larger turbines than originally planned.

Bjurlof pointed out Ørsted, despite buying Deepwater, isn’t necessarily married to the current plans. “They may value Deepwater, but they don’t want egg on their faces,” he said of Ørsted officials involved with the Deepwater operations. “They do not want to jeopardize their relationships for this rinky dink operation.”

At a hearing held by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in Amagansett on November 5, McDonald and others voiced concerns over the project’s expansion.

Larger Blades

BOEM Environmental Impact Statement Coordinator Mary Boatman said if the project is approved, Deepwater Wind would be allowed to build only within existing criteria laid out in its original proposal. “The only thing we are looking at, and what can be built if approved, is for 15 turbines,” Boatman said.

Clint Plummer, a Deepwater vice president, said in an interview this week even though the turbines may be larger, “the application contemplates a range of sizes and an envelope of ranges. There is no change.”

Plummer insists that the scope of the South Fork Wind Project hasn’t changed, and that the capacity of its on-land system is limited. “We answered a specific request by PSEG to address the East End and were chosen low bidder,” he said.

Both PSEG and LIPA insist that the need for electricity is rising sharply on the East End, yet LIPA’s own statistics contradict that. When pressed, Plummer and LIPA officials acknowledge acknowledged there is only a need for a more stable supply on the East End during “peak periods.” That, experts say, is only about 12 days a year — hot summer days when ironically, the Deepwater turbines don’t help because the wind tends to die down.

Meanwhile, though, LIPA and PSEG are planning massive upgrades to the electric system here — upgrades that would mean no wind-driven electricity will even be needed. Critics have long contended that the ultimate plan is to replace power being lost by the decommissioning of the Indian Island Power Plant, which powers much of New York City. It’s all part of Cuomo’s vision.

Bjurloff offered another scenario, one that is gaining momentum as Deepwater limps through the review process: pull the plug altogether. There are hundreds of more wind generators to be built, and “they could come ashore somewhere else. Shoreham would be perfect,” he said. “The entire system from there through Montauk is slated for upgrading in the next two years.”

As for the vow from Deepwater, LIPA, and PSEG officials that the Wainscott landing would only be used to power East Hampton — it is falling apart in light of the recent developments.

Bait And Switch

“They are lying, and they’ve been lying all along,” McDonald charged. “The 2005 request for proposals was a setup, he said. “PSEG was the only evaluator and they’ve been in business with Deepwater for 10 years. It was a fraud.”

Bonnie Brady, on behalf of the fishing industry, said the larger generators would send fish fleeing. “There are no cod in Rhode Island,” she said. “That’s because of the Block Island turbines.” The blades will vibrate more, Brady said. “We need a comprehensive plan. We need studies before we let them on our property,” Brady said.

Plummer contends that those studies are already underway, and that they account for the larger units now being contemplated for installation, and that everything is moving along according to schedule.

But it’s not. The Article 7 review process has already been delayed because questions have been raised about some Deepwater filings. “The maps are not consistent on what they are required to do,” Bjurloff said. More and more people are signing on to participate in the review process. And if Deepwater does get an approval, it seems increasingly likely the decision will face a court challenge.

Even as Deepwater vows to become bidders on more offshore leases, LIPA’s proposed upgrades to its East End system appear to have been put on the front burner. These updates would make the Deepwater infusion of power into Wainscott completely unnecessary, and the costs totally redundant.

In a document entitled “Additional budget requests for 2018 Approved and 2019 project,” LIPA lists some of the upgrades, which will be completed before the summer of 2020. A new 138kv cable from Riverhead to the Shinnecock substation is among them. The entire system from Montauk through Amagansett, and East Hampton to the Buell Lane substation will be upgraded from 23 kV to 33Kb; the projected cost is over $100 million. McDonald said although proponents of the Deepwater project who spoke at the BOEM meeting based their support on the fact it would mean more clean energy for the region, the assumption is faulty.

If BOEM requires additional testing — or if the East Hampton Town Trustees refuse to grant an easement for the Wainscott cable landing (see accompanying story,) the South Fork Wind project will be, at best, curtailed. Deepwater’s backup plan should Wainscott be nixed is to bring the cable ashore in Napeague and run it all the way to Cove Hollow Road in East Hampton, a mammoth and costly undertaking.

rmurphy@indyeastend.com