Cable Fight Obscures Greater Issue

Cable Fight Obscures Greater Issue

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 22:21
EDITORIAL

Wind power is coming, and the waters south and east of Long Island are slated to be the site of more electricity-generating offshore turbines as time moves on. Climate change and energy independence are the big drivers of the move to renewable power. Particulate pollution and the almost unimaginable horror of a potential nuclear plant accident make the East Coast a leading candidate for investment in the new efficient technology. 

Critics of wind power have been gipped by a fear of rate increases, though a Rhode Island deal suggests that potential hikes may be overstated. A contract between National Grid and Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind set a 20-year flat rate for power from the Revolution Wind Farm, a 400-megawatt project proposed in Rhode Island Sound. Rather than increase rates, the deal would save state residents $90 million, about 50 cents a month per customer, over the 20-year term. 

By the numbers, National Grid in Rhode Island buys electricity right now for 10.9 cents per kilowatt hour; the Revolution Farm power — enough to supply about a quarter of the state’s entire energy load — will cost 9.8 cents per kilowatt hour. In-state solar-produced power costs about 16 cents per kilowatt hour.

It is unfortunate that here on the East End, the Orsted Deepwater South Fork Wind Farm plan has, for a few years now, been the subject of intense opposition, some from commercial fishing interests, some from political figures looking to attack rivals who favor the project, and some from Wainscott property owners whose horror at the thought of a cable passing through the hamlet underground and unseen is — in the context of the cascading global ecological catastrophe brought on in large part by our exploitation of fossil fuels —  difficult to justify. Now there is talk that if the opponents cannot convince the Town of East Hampton, they will try to incorporate as a separate village to stop the cable that way.

There are, of course, alternatives to the Wainscott route. Orsted Deepwater could bring the cable ashore in Hither Hills State Park, then run it along the Long Island Rail Road right of way to its East Hampton substation off Cove Hollow Road. As best we understand, this would be substantially more expensive than the Wainscott route.

No energy source is without some degree of environmental or economic risk. This is why Orsted must be held to account on its projects’ potential effects on commercial fishing, ocean-water conditions, and endangered species. But our planet is rapidly heating. Right here, we can already observe the changes climate change has wrought on our ecosystem, from the northward expansion of certain types of ticks and the southern pine beetle to more-frequent flooding and the accelerated erosion caused by sea level rise. Disparaging wind power and calling for other, less efficient alternatives — such as, yes, solar — is irresponsible. 

Perhaps Wainscott might convince regulators that it is not the right place for a cable, but these misinformed critics must not be allowed to undermine our region’s move toward offshore wind. The stakes are too high to envision an energy future without it.

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