05/04/11 4:28pm
05/04/2011 4:28 PM


A study on constructing a wind turbine at the Riverhead Town sewer plant underestimates the costs of building the facility and overestimates the amount of energy it would generate, according to the New York State Power Authority.

The Town Board asked NYPA to review the study —which was commissioned by the town — by the private consulting firm Neutral Group. NYPA’s report was issued Wednesday.

Its conclusion raised concerns about the ultimate benefit of the turbine and contrasted the conclusions reached by Neutral Group. That firm said the project would generate over $5 million in energy savings over 25 years.

“I feel good that we had the Power Authority look at this, because originally we had an industry source doing the study and I was never comfortable with that,” said Councilman George Gabrielsen, who met with NYPA officials Wednesday, along with Supervisor Sean Walter.

“Now that we had NYPA come in and look at it, I feel better,” he continued, “because this is what they do throughout the state and according to their study, it’s a negative. It doesn’t pay.”

Mr. Gabrielsen told the News-Review Wednesday that Neutral Group left out the so-called “soft costs,” such as site preparation costs, in its initial study.

Peter Rusy of Neutral Group said staffers there are willing to speak with NYPA officials to go into further detail on what numbers to use in computing cost estimates.

“There are a couple variables we have to come to agreement on,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “NYPA’s estimates were very conservative, and we have a good understanding of the costs for a project like this.”

He feels NYPA hasn’t looked at how Neutral Group arrived at its estimates.

“We’ve done a lot of work on this,” Mr. Rusy said. “I would have told [town sewer plant supervisor] Michael Reichel from day one if I thought this was not feasible.”

NYPA estimates the construction costs of the 750 kw turbine would be $2.6 million, which is about $1 million more than the $1.6 million estimate in Neutral Group’s April 2010 study. NYPA also estimated that the electrical cost per kilowatt hour was 12 cents and the energy escalation rate, or LIPA rate hikes, to be 2.5 percent per year. Neutral Group put the cost per kilowatt hour at 18 cents and the annual cost of escalation rate at five percent. Based on these numbers, NYPA estimates that the project would not generate money for the town.

Neutral Group altered their estimates in April of this year and upped the construction cost to $2.295 million.

NYPA also altered its electrical cost estimate to match Neutral Group’s new estimate of 14.5 cents per kilowatt hour.

But even with those changes, NYPA officials still questioned if the project would work financially.

“Based on our more conservative approach, NYPA still has concerns regarding the ultimate economic benefit to the town of the proposed wind turbine,” NYPA officials wrote.

Residents of Riverside Drive and other streets near the sewer plant have raised opposition to the turbine project, citing noise and other factors.

Mr. Walter has visited wind farms in Atlantic City and upstate Madison County and reported that the plants were relatively quiet.

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04/21/11 5:48am
04/21/2011 5:48 AM

It looks like a wind turbine is indeed coming to the Riverhead sewer plant property off Route 105.

Councilman George Gabrielsen and Supervisor Walter took a trip to Madison County, N.Y., last week to observe a 1.5 megawatt turbine in action there. Both concluded the turbine is quiet enough that it would not disturb neighborhoods around the sewer plant.

“I was against the turbine but now I think I’m going to switch the other way,” Mr. Gabrielsen told the News-Review during his ride from Madison County last Monday. “They weren’t that noisy. If you get right under it you can hear a swishing sound but that was about it. And this was an old model; the new ones are even quieter.”

Mr. Walter, who also had reservations but will now support the proposed project, said that once he and Mr. Gabrielsen took a short walk into some nearby woods they could not hear any sound from the turbine.

Both men have met with the New York Power Authority, which could end up overseeing the entire project.

“NYPA would get us the right unit, so I feel comfortable,” said Mr. Gabrielsen.

The proposed 750 kw wind turbine would cost the town, at most, $1.8 million to build, but the energy it generates for the sewer plant would pay off that cost within 11 years. It would then generate $5 million in energy savings over its projected 25-year life, according to consultant Peter Rusy of DHL Power, which did a feasibility study on the proposal.

“We have to approve the bonding issue,” Mr. Walter said about the next steps. “Probably before that we’ll put the other duck in a row with NYPA and make sure they’re willing to come in and construct this, and work it. And if they do this the interest rate is like .5 percent. That’s like free money.”

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10/11/10 5:30pm
10/11/2010 5:30 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO Shoreham Advisory Committee members heard ideas for the defunct Shoreham Power Plant, which includes a wind blade testing facility.

A wind turbine testing facility. A turbine testing and manufacturing plant. Even a testing, manufacturing and research development park, a sort of one-stop shop for the wind turbine industry.

Those three potential scenarios for the defunct Shoreham power plant property were kicked around at LIPA’s Shoreham Advisory Committee meeting last Friday. Long Island Power Authority planning consultants presented the ideas for feedback from committee members.

But only the first scenario, a wind turbine testing facility, received much support of the civic and elected leaders who attended the event. That’s because the other two, larger proposals would involve cutting into the woods surrounding the plant, 800 undeveloped acres owned by LIPA’s operating partner, National Grid.

Shoreham Civic Organization president Richard Belsky said he wanted discussions restricted to the already developed LIPA-owned property in order to preserve the wooded land.

“Once you start looking at that 800 acres you’re going to get a lot of resistance,” Mr. Belsky said. “There’s more value leaving it as open space than developing it.”

Most members of the committee, which consists of government officials, environmentalists, civic leaders and community members, said they would rather see LIPA’s 61-acre property redeveloped as opposed to building facilities on National Grid land.

Planner Ken Schwartz said his firm considered economic feasibility first when crafting ideas for the plant property.

Some sort of wind turbine facility turned out to be the most favorable use because of the property’s access to the Long Island Sound, Mr. Schwartz explained. Shipping nearly 295-foot long blades would be less problematic with boats rather than trucks because of the blade’s size, he said.

A testing facility, which would be the second of its kind nationwide and the first to accommodate newer and larger blades, would employ about 15 to 20 people, Mr. Schwartz told committee members.

“This is an emerging market as wind technology continues to grow,” Mr. Schwartz said. “There’s going to be more of a need for these testing facilities throughout the United States.”

He also presented different location options for the wind blade testing facility. If it were built on LIPA property, some buildings would need to be demolished; if it were built on the National Grid property, the land would have to be rezoned, Mr. Schwartz said.

Based on initial feedback during last week’s committee meeting, however, Michael Deering, vice president of environmental affairs for LIPA, told a reporter that while the presentation included National Grid property ideas, there would not likely be any further evaluation of those ideas moving forward.

“At the request of committee members, we looked at property beyond our borders,” he said. “However, we are going to strictly focus on the development of the LIPA property and not to expand into the National Grid property.”

But that would mean losing potential jobs that could come to the area.

A wind tower assembly and manufacturing plant build on the National Grid property could potentially employ about 150 people, Mr. Schwartz said.

The third option would include a four-building industrial park where each lot would range in size from 25 to 75 acres, all on LIPA’s property. The wind blade testing facility and turbine manufacturing plant would then be built on the adjacant National Grid land. That option would bring the most jobs to the area, though consultants did not offer any specific estimates.

County Legislator Ed Romaine said he’d prefer to continue discussions about redeveloping the LIPA property, which is publicly owned, as opposed to the privately-owned National Grid property.

“I’m interested in keeping whatever our decisions are at this moment in time limited to the 61-acres,” Mr. Romaine said. “It might tee-up nicely for National Grid, but that is a totally different issue.”

A National Grid spokeswoman did not comment on the presentation.

Mr. Deering said the next step will strictly focus on a wind testing facility on LIPA property.

“We want to do something that advances renewable energy, that is economically viable, environmentally sound and meets community needs,” he said.

Sid Bail, first-vice president for the Wading River Civic Association, said out of all the alternative land-use ideas presented, he prefers a wind blade testing facility on the former power plant, which closed in 1989 before it ever became fully operational.

However, Mr. Bail said he’s concerned about the potential negative impact to local residents, such as increased traffic and noise generated from the site.

“I think it could be a good project,” he said. “I would like Shoreham to be remembered for something other than the failed nuclear plant.”

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