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Jan 24, 2019 11:54 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Thiele Withdraws Support For Deepwater Wind Project, Says 'Bait and Switch' Has Eroded Trust

Jan 29, 2019 12:27 PM

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. announced last week that he has withdrawn his official support of the South Fork Wind Farm proposal, saying that changes made to the plan after local lawmakers had offered support have eroded his trust in the would-be developers.

The longtime assemblyman and former Southampton Town supervisor said in a statement issued on Thursday morning, January 24, that he sees recently unveiled changes to the proposal as a “bait and switch” by the developers that has soured his impression of the project.

He had previously supported the proposed 15-turbine wind farm in the ocean off Block Island as an important step toward boosting reliance on renewable energy sources, rather than fossil fuel power plants or nuclear power. But in last week’s statement, he said that while he still supports wind energy projects, he cannot support the South Fork project as currently presented.

“What we were originally told about the project and its goals are no longer true,” Mr. Thiele said in his statement. “A project originally proposed by an American company to address the growing energy needs of Eastern Long Island now is to be part of the portfolio of an international energy giant, whose first decision was a 44 percent increase in the size of the project. We are left to imagine what other changes might be made or what other projects might show up on our doorstep in the future.”

His objections nodded to the announcements this past summer and fall that the project’s developers, the Rhode Island-based company Deepwater Wind, had been purchased by a giant Danish energy corporation called Ørsted and is now to be known as Ørsted US Offshore Wind.

Additionally, the developers and the Long Island Power Authority revealed, just as the applications to federal and state agencies were filed, that they now expect the wind farm to be able to pump up to 130 megawatts of power ashore, instead of just the 90 megawatts originally planned, thanks to the anticipated use of larger turbines than originally presented to the public.

The company has said that the increase in power generation from using larger turbines does not substantially change any of the implementation details or the impact of the wind farm’s development and operation, since they still will be building only 15 turbines, and they will be connected to land by the same power cable.

A spokesperson for the developers said that the company is puzzled as to why the changes in ownership and an increase in the anticipated power output of the project have soured Mr. Thiele on the project.

“Frankly, we’re confused why Assemblyman Thiele was such a strong and vocal supporter of the 90-megawatt project, but now opposes the project when it’s capable of producing even more clean energy for his constituents at a lower price,” spokesperson Meaghan Wims wrote in an email to The Press.

She added, “We’ve talked publicly about what our new ownership, and our expanded project, mean for Long Island. We’ve requested multiple times over the course of the last four months to meet with Assemblyman Thiele to brief him on the facts—that offer still stands.”

Deepwater Wind built the first offshore wind farm in the United States, off Block Island, in 2016 and has said it expects to complete the South Fork Wind Farm by 2022.

The company also has announced plans for three other projects slated to come. One is an 80-turbine project slated for the same region as the 15-turbine South Fork Wind Farm, which would deliver up to 700 megawatts of power to Rhode Island and Connecticut. Others target locations off the coasts of New Jersey and Maryland.

Over the summer, Deepwater Wind filed its applications with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the New York State Public Service Commission for 15 wind turbines in an area of ocean 30 to 35 miles southeast of Montauk, in an area popular with cod fishermen known as Cox Ledge, and connected to land by a 50-mile cable coming ashore in Wainscott and running underground to the LIPA-PSEG substation in East Hampton.

The East Hampton Town Board and East Hampton Town Trustees are currently negotiating with the company for easements to run the power cable under the ocean beach and town parking lot at Beach Lane.

Shortly before filing the applications, after more than 18 months of public discussions about the 90-megawatt project, the company acknowledged in response to questions from The Press that it now expects to be able to employ larger turbines that could produce more than 8 megawatts of power each, rather than the 6-megawatt turbines that had been used in the Block Island Wind Farm in 2016 and had been used in initial projections for the South Fork Wind Farm.

The additional 40 megawatts of power that the larger turbines would produce had been shown in state power supply forecasts for several months prior.

A coalition of critics of the wind farm plans have repeatedly nodded to the trickle of new revelations about the project’s details over the last two years, which seem to change from how they were originally presented, as a sign that the developers should not be trusted.

“The South Fork Wind Farm is a Trojan Horse that, if permitted to land at Wainscott Beach or in a pristine parkland once, will continue to do so with more cables and construction for more electricity from larger wind farms,” Wainscott resident Simon Kinsella, the most vociferous critic of the wind farm proposal in recent months, said in support of Mr. Thiele’s statement.

Mr. Thiele also jabbed at the Long Island Power Authority, which spurred the project forward by agreeing to a nearly $1.7 billion contract with Deepwater to purchase the power from the wind farm and announced in the fall that it would be negotiating an additional agreement to purchase the extra 40 megawatts of power that the company acknowledged in August it that would able to produce.

The contracts have been the subject of much criticism, because LIPA has refused to divulge the details of the costs, which independent analysts have said appear to be much higher than agreements for similar projects in other states.

“I continue to be concerned by LIPA’s ill-considered policy of denying public access to the Deepwater agreement under the guise of confidentiality,” Mr. Thiele said. “There is no legitimate basis for this policy. The procurement process is over. The public has every right to review this agreement, just as it has every right to review real estate appraisals under the CPF program once an agreement has been reached. The change in ownership and the 44 percent increase make it even more imperative that the agreement be made public now.”

East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said he supports Mr. Thiele’s call for full disclosure of the LIPA power purchase agreements under which it negotiates the prices Long Island’s residents will pay for electricity.

But Mr. Van Scoyoc said that the changes to the project plans have not soured his belief that the overall project will be a boost for East Hampton.

In July, the Town Board voted by its barest majority, 3-2, to support the Deepwater project, and it has been working on an easement agreement with the company to bury the power supply cables under Beach Lane in Wainscott and other roads leading to the East Hampton substation.

The supervisor said that the wording of the easement is still being drafted by the town but that it will impose strict limits on the size and capacity of the infrastructure that would be installed, limiting it to only the one 138-kilovolt cable from the South Fork Wind Farm.

“We proceeded into this negotiation with the understanding that this was 15 turbines and a cable of a certain size, and that hasn’t changed,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said. “Our intention is that our easement will be limiting.

“I can understand that people have concerns about the increased output of this project, but in the big picture, having more clean energy at a lower cost doesn’t seem like negative to me.”

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To many questions, not enough answers...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Jan 24, 19 12:20 PM
1 member liked this comment
oh no freds feeling got hurt so no turbines!
By BrianWilliams (87), on Jan 24, 19 1:36 PM
Unless they are going to be noticeable bigger I don't see how the same 15 turbines now producing more power is a problem? Are they going to be 44% bigger? Should we be surprised that technological improvements can occur during an approval process that will end up taking, what, a decade?
By shocean (16), Southampton on Jan 24, 19 2:02 PM
3 members liked this comment
Home rule !!
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jan 24, 19 7:02 PM
1 member liked this comment
With all the problems this project failed to address, this was the only issue concerning the project that I raised during our debates to which Fred Thiele responded. The whole project is so poorly conceived. A whole laundry list of flaws can be recited. It has reached this point in part due to our Assemblyman's intent or neglect. What benefit does his relative turnaround do now? I hope he takes some responsibility and addresses the harm its done so far. But this is not the first bad idea that caused ...more
By Southampton Patrick (13), Southampton on Jan 24, 19 7:48 PM
solar and win biggest scam for tax credits ever!
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 24, 19 8:15 PM
More likely he didn't get a big enough kick back.
By Preliator Lives (437), Obamavillie on Jan 25, 19 8:07 AM
1 member liked this comment
The answer my Fred is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind
By pluff (60), East Hampton on Jan 25, 19 8:24 AM
1 member liked this comment
THANK YOU FRED THIELE: finally, one of our representatives has the courage to call out LIPA -- do you really think there is no reason for them to pay an inordinately high price for electricity generated by this major construction project? They are overpaying and the money flows to LIPA's patron, our corrupt Governor Cuomo -- the same way SUNY construction projects were funding Governor Cuomo. When LIPA reveals the price it pays for the electricity it will be double market rate -- the same mark ...more
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Jan 25, 19 2:04 PM
Not surprising. How does this company make money? By building these turbines. Then by maintaining them... at great cost. They know we won't be able to abandon them, so we'll have to keep maintaining them. Then, when the don't produce enough power. "we need 50 more!" This is a con game. I'd say "I told you so," but I'm not like that.
By Liman (30), Montauk on Jan 25, 19 3:54 PM
1 member liked this comment
I was at a Town Board meeting last year to hear both sides before the big vote by the EHTB. I was surprised that this Deepwater Wind project will actually INCREASE THE ELECTRIC RATES for all of the East Hampton's residents. How many people really know this and would want our rates to increase? It's shameful that the Democratically controlled Town Board would agree to this program. The bait and switch should be no surprise, many witnesses from our states said the same thing. Our Democratically ...more
By jkp720 (8), Westhampton on Jan 25, 19 4:16 PM
"Bait & Switch" - those words coming out of the mouth of a politician - how ironic.
By HamptonDad (236), Hampton Bays on Jan 25, 19 4:57 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thiele finally did the right thing. With America's great coal reserves wind was always a stupid idea. Just goes to show Trump was right all along.
By bird (829), Sag Harbor on Jan 25, 19 6:08 PM
Bird, this isn’t 1964, America’s great coal reserves? Coal is dead, figuratively and literally. It’s the dirtiest polluter. trump doesn’t have a clue, kinda like his government shut down.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Jan 25, 19 6:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
Sorry Fred but a quick look at the posts above would indicate you're in error. Coal is the answer.
By bird (829), Sag Harbor on Jan 25, 19 6:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
Sorry bird, a quick look at history would indicate your in error. If you like mercury in your fish, you like coal.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Jan 25, 19 6:39 PM
1 member liked this comment
Sorry Fred but based on all the comments above, you're the only one on this thread who doesn't want mercury in your fish.
By bird (829), Sag Harbor on Jan 25, 19 6:46 PM
Bird, I rest my case.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Jan 25, 19 7:11 PM
2 members liked this comment
Smart move. At some point, we have to understand that we are stewards of the lands and the waters that our forefathers left to us. We didn't spend our childhood at the beach looking out at wind farms. Neither should our children.
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Jan 25, 19 7:05 PM
"The contracts have been the subject of much criticism, because LIPA has refused to divulge the details of the costs, which independent analysts have said appear to be much higher than agreements for similar projects in other states." - par for the course for LIPA
By Seajay (12), East Quogue on Jan 26, 19 3:51 PM
Another issue besides no firm cost to the ratepayers is the environmental cost to OUR beaches by the construction that is called for when bringing the cable(s) ashore. The whole project reeks of another LILCO scam.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jan 26, 19 4:44 PM
Great, now conspiracy theorist are at it. Wait till our coast has “clean” oil rigs off our coast. Combine that with the “clean” coal people above are pushing . you won’t only be able to drive on the beach, the ocean will be so polluted you can drive on it.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Jan 27, 19 7:32 AM
1 member liked this comment
... the existing wind farms make Block Island look like Coney Island. A world class destination tainted by development and developers overpowering local government, Assembleyman Thiele being the exception.
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Jan 27, 19 10:00 AM
Block island still looks great. One of my favorites.maybe I’m reading your comment wrong, but you realize Block is in RI?
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Jan 27, 19 1:30 PM
Lolllll I used to argue with DFree on this message board over things. Now I see that you are not or sound kind, with this “Cuomo is pocketing the construction funds” rant. I apologize for ever assuming you were competent enough to discuss things.
By Brandon Quinn (191), Hampton Bays on Jan 27, 19 1:14 PM
December 2018: SUNY Polytechnic Institute founder Alain Kaloyeros was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison Tuesday after he was convicted earlier this year of steering more than $850 million worth of state-funded contracts to allies of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Jan 27, 19 1:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
“Wind costs too much, and imagine what it could do to pollute our waters! Coal is the answer!”

You couldn’t make this type of idiocy up if you tried...
By Brandon Quinn (191), Hampton Bays on Jan 27, 19 1:17 PM
If the cost of the wind power generated by this project is so cheap, the why is LIPA keeping it a secret? And why are our electrical rates going up when it come on line?
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Jan 27, 19 1:57 PM
Not knowing what the costs are is STUPIDITY on out elected people. Going ashore in wainscott is worse. Amagansett is the proper place. Less disturbing to the environment.
Not knowing the costs befrore hand is wrong. Sounds like obama care, trust me...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Jan 28, 19 10:55 AM
March 2018:
"Former top aide to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is convicted of bribery and fraud after accepting more than $300,000 in kickbacks
Joseph Percoco, 47, was found guilty on Tuesday of two counts of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and one count of soliciting bribes
Prosecutors argued that Percoco accepted more than $300,000 in bribes
Percoco has worked for the Cuomos since he was 19 and the governor's late father, Mario, ran the New York state government
He ...more
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Jan 28, 19 5:32 PM
Buy solar panels & get them installed. That way you are responsible for the upkeep yourself and don’t keep getting higher and higher bills from the electric company claiming they need more & more money for the upkeep of a bunch of jumbo fans in the Atlantic Ocean.

“Oh, there was a bad storm and we had to send crews out into the ocean to fix the turbines that were damaged.” Repeat every time a nor’easter or hurricane or blizzard plows through the area. “Sorry, ...more
By btdt (449), water mill on Feb 2, 19 1:49 PM