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03/30/14 8:00am
03/30/2014 8:00 AM
EPCAL Sandy cars

The western runway at EPCAL in June 2013. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The Riverhead Town Board recently passed a number of resolutions that “pre-qualify” a several firms to submit proposals for the construction of a solar photovoltaic plant at the Enterprise Park at Calverton. The location of such an installation would be the proposed subdivided lots located near the south end of the 7,000-foot runway.

Although the North Fork Environmental Council certainly supports the use of such green technology to meet our energy needs, we have to wonder why this project cannot be considered for construction on the runway itself. The western runway at EPCAL occupies approximately 30-plus acres and would certainly provide more than a substantial base for the infrastructure for the solar panels.

Extrapolations based on power generation from the BP/Met Life Long Island Solar Farm at Brookhaven National Laboratory indicate that a power plant constructed on the 7,000-foot runway would conservatively supply 7.7 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. This would provide enough renewable power for approximately 800 homes, with maximum solar energy generation occurring during the summer months when the demand for electricity is greatest due to air-conditioning loads. Data provided for the 200-acre solar farm at BNL indicates that a solar farm on the EPCAL runway would offset approximately 5,400 metric tons of carbon annually.

In order to allow the town to subdivide and partially develop land at EPCAL, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is requiring that the town cover the 7,000-foot runway with soil to partially compensate for the clearing and removal of grasslands and trees.

The NFEC questions the wisdom of this proposal.

If my calculations are correct, covering the 30-acre runway with six inches of soil would require depositing approximately 24,000 cubic yards. Assuming an average dump truck capacity of 20 cubic yards means this would require something on the order of 1,200 truckloads. Needless to say, this mandate would be a very expensive endeavor with questionable environmental benefit. One must also ask where all this valuable topsoil would be transported from.

Naturally, the North Fork Environmental Council supports the town’s interest in establishing a solar farm at EPCAL. Such an installation would help meet increasing demand for electricity and help New York reach the goal of producing 30 percent of its energy needs through renewable means by 2015.

But why not use the runway for the solar farm and preserve 30 acres of trees or grassland elsewhere?

bartunek_George Bartunek is a Riverhead resident and vice president of the North Fork Environmental Council.

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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