Wind Power Still Best Option

The Earth is getting warmer and fossil fuel-burning power plants have a lot to do with it. That is why those who study climate and government policies say alternative energy sources are essential in order to avoid massive upheavals. Given present technology, wind power, either from land-based or offshore windmills, is considered the best, fastest way to make a difference. 

Other nonpolluting options, such as nuclear and hydroelectric, are problematic. And in the Northeast, large-scale solar arrays are less commercially viable than elsewhere and have been met with bitter community backlash where proposed. There is no easy answer, but steps must be taken to slow the rapid rise of global temperature. This is why towns, such as East Hampton, and states, such as New York, have made commitments to renewable sources.

East Hampton Town officials, however, and in particular the town trustees, seem cowed by a small, but outspoken, number of residents who oppose Deepwater Wind’s proposed South Fork Wind Farm. The project calls for 15 generating turbines about 25 miles south of Point Judith, R.I., and 35 miles east of Montauk. A cable connecting the wind farm to the Long Island power grid is supposed to come ashore somewhere in East Hampton Town, passing either under the trustee beach at Wainscott or at one of two state-owned locations on Napeague. It would produce about 90 megawatts, said to be enough to supply electricity to about 50,000 houses, which is more than twice the total number of residential properties in the entire town.

In exchange for town easements, if the cable comes ashore in Wainscott, Deepwater Wind has promised deal-sweeteners, including paying to bury overhead utility lines on Beach Lane and Wainscott’s Main Street, $1.5 million for water-quality projects, and other substantial perks. Should the town continue to stonewall Deepwater, it could easily withdraw its offers and instead bring the cable across dry land in Napeague State Park or Promised Land, where no town permits are required. As a Deepwater report earlier this year said: Most local zoning laws are superseded by state utility regulations.

Regardless of whether the commercial fishing industry has misgivings about it, wind power appears here to stay. Turbines capable of generating 190 megawatts for Connecticut customers are in the planning stages for a site south of Martha’s Vineyard. Other states in the region are soliciting proposals for far larger projects, one for up to 1,100 megawatts. (The Millstone Nuclear Power Station, by comparison, produces about 2,000 megawatts, which powers about two million houses.)

It is difficult to support the position that wind power is not a necessary component of a cleaner-energy future. Officials, and in particular the town trustees, must recognize their limited say, and work with Deepwater Wind rather than against it.