Editorial: Wind turbines at Shoreham could be key to economic growth

There’s a very valuable natural resource in this region, one that’s gone unused.

According to Long Island Power Authority planning consultants, the shuttered Shoreham nuclear power plant complex on Long Island Sound is an ideal place to build a large wind turbine testing or manufacturing facility. One reason: Shipping 300-foot-long wind turbine blades is a lot easier by boat than by truck, the consultants said.

There are currently no blade-making plants in the U.S., only in Europe and Brazil, but a testing facility will be built in Boston, funded by a $24.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The 50,000-square-foot complex is expected to be ready sometime in 2011 and will bring 300 construction jobs, 30 design jobs and eight administrative positions to the Boston area, according to published reports. Not to mention the growth of a materials production industry to support the plant.

Our elected leaders should be making every effort to bring that kind of project here. And to accomplish that, they and local civic leaders must unite and join the fight, not impede it.

The Times/Review Newsgroup reported exclusively in October that the consultants for LIPA, which owns the Shoreham nuclear plant (LIPA’s operating partner, National Grid, owns the larger, surrounding property), has proposed three possible uses for the property: build a wind turbine testing facility; a turbine testing and manufacturing plant; or a testing, manufacturing and research development park, a sort of one-stop shop for the wind turbine industry.

The first option would bring 15 to 20 jobs to Shoreham. The second, upwards of 150. For the last, largest option, the consultants didn’t offer estimates. We imagine it could bring hundreds more jobs to the area.

Yet the second and third proposals were met with immediate resistance from Shoreham and Wading-River civic leaders and even elected leaders attending a committee meeting in Shoreham at which the consultants made their pitch.

Shoreham Civic Organization president Richard Belsky said at the meeting he wanted any talk of industrial development limited to the already developed LIPA-owned property, 61 acres in all. The wooded land surrounding the plant, he said, should be preserved.

“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.”

We’re not so sure. And we would urge officials at National Grid and LIPA — a representative of which told our reporter the civic’s resistance would likely halt any further consideration of the more ambitious options for the property — to forge ahead and further evaluate all proposals. We’re all for protecting open space, but nothing protects our way of life on eastern Long Island more than the health and well-being of our people, in our own and neighboring hamlets.

The future development of the entire property would generate just the type of jobs we need in this region — the type of jobs that were lost when Grumman ceased operations at the fighter jet assembly plant in Calverton — to keep it viable and a great place to live for our children and grandchildren.