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Long Island Power Authority approves contract for 1st NY offshore wind farm

The Long Island Power Authority on Jan. 25 took a big step in helping the growth of offshore wind energy in the U.S., approving a 20-year power purchase agreement for the output of a 90-MW wind farm that will be built southeast of the eastern end of Long Island, N.Y.

LIPA's board of trustees voted unanimously in favor of a power purchase agreement that will finance Deepwater Wind's 90-MW South Fork Wind Project. The 15–turbine wind farm will be located about 30 miles southeast of Montauk and out of sight from Long Island's beaches.

"This is a big day for clean energy in New York and our nation," Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said in a news release. "There is a huge clean energy resource blowing off of our coastline just over the horizon, and it is time to tap into this unlimited resource to power our communities."

Approval of the South Fork wind project follows the start of commercial operations in December 2016 of America's first offshore wind farm: Deepwater Wind's $300 million, 30-MW Block Island Offshore Wind, which is located three miles off of the coast of Rhode Island. The decision also comes two weeks after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo committed the state to developing 2,400 MW of offshore wind by 2030 and urged LIPA to approve the contract for the Deepwater Wind project.

A Deepwater Wind representative said in a statement that construction could start as early as 2019, with the wind farm coming online in 2022, if permitting moves forward in time.

LIPA CEO Tom Falcone said in a news release that the contract's approval is the first step in developing "the tremendous potential of offshore wind off Long Island's coast" and meeting Cuomo's goals of procuring 50% of the state's electricity from renewables by 2030. "This project is the right size, at the right location and demonstrates how smart energy decisions can reduce cost while providing renewable energy and clean air for all of Long Island," Falcone said.

"New York leads the nation in pioneering clean energy innovation, and this bold action marks the next step in our unprecedented commitment to offshore wind, as well as our ambitious long term energy goal of supplying half of all electricity from renewable sources by 2030," Cuomo said in a separate statement.

LIPA's vote was also praised by numerous elected officials, renewable activists, labor unions and environmentalists.

John Durso, president of the Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, said in a news release that New York's "workforce is ready to provide the skilled labor needed for this emerging offshore wind industry."

"Not only does this project create good paying jobs immediately, but it is also the first step toward leaving the Earth a better place for generations to come," added John Cush, vice president and business agent for Ironworkers Local 361. "With Deepwater Wind's commitment to build this wind farm using local labor, this project is a win-win for everybody."

LIPA, which is a municipal-owned corporation that oversees Long Island's grid, was originally expected to approve the contract in July 2016, but at the request of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, or NYSERDA, postponed the decision until the release of the agency's draft blueprint of its Offshore Wind Master Plan. NYSERDA released the blueprint strategy in September 2016 aimed at developing up to 39,000 MW of offshore wind. A pending Offshore Wind Master Plan is set to be released by the end of 2017.

LIPA's transmission and distribution system is managed by Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. subsidiary PSEG Long Island LLC.