East Hampton Town has set a lofty goal to produce the entire town’s electric power through alternative energy within the next four years.
It’s a goal that relies heavily on the possibility of offshore wind providing power to East Hampton, but whether that comes to pass or not depends on whether the Long Island Power Authority accepts a bid from offshore wind company Deepwater Wind to provide power to the far east end of the South Fork.
Renewable Energy Long Island, the non-profit that has been at the forefront of the push for wind power in East Hampton, is holding a rally Monday morning, March 21 at 11:30 a.m. at LIPA headquarters in Uniondale before the LIPA trustee meeting, in an attempt to push the power company to accept Deepwater Wind’s bid.
If LIPA approves the bid, the power from the Deepwater One site, 30 miles east of Montauk in the Atlantic Ocean, will be sent via cable to East Hampton Town’s electric substation on Buell Lane. Deepwater Wind would also build lithium ion battery backup stations in East Hampton to ensure more reliable distribution of power.
Bid winners are expected to be announced in June.
Representatives from East Hampton Town, Renewable Energy Long Island, and Deepwater Wind were on-hand at the East Hampton Middle School Saturday morning, March 19, for a discussion on the future of wind power in East Hampton.
The event was organized by the town’s Energy Sustainability Committee, in with the help of the East Hampton High School’s environmental club, which gathered signatures from 391 students on petitions to be delivered to LIPA Monday morning.
“I want to tell the kids it’s their world, and we’re working to make it better,” said Energy Sustainability Committee member Linda James, who moderated the discussion. “The future is now.”
“It seems pretty clear and accepted on the South Fork that our peak energy demand exceeds our ability to meet that demand,” said East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, who added that the town wants to have a say in how LIPA ultimately decides to meet that demand.
The South Fork is the one area of Long Island that is still seeing substantial growth in electric use.
“It’s clear that in the next year or two these decisions are going to be made. We want to play an important role in the decisions,” he added. “Global warming and sea level rise are clearly at our feet. The discussion is not about mediating it, it’s about how we’re going to adapt to it.”
He added that, in the future, Main Beach in East Hampton may no longer exist, and changes in migratory fish patterns as the oceans warm may wreak havoc on Montauk, which is New York’s largest commercial fishing port.
“I’m only scratching the surface of the consequences of sea level rise,” he said.
Mr. Cantwell described the town’s 100 percent renewable energy goal as “a very ambitious schedule, but it’s ok to overreach.”
The towns of Burlington, Vermont; Greensburg, Kansas and Aspen, Colorado have achieved their goals of producing all their energy from renewable sources, and the city of San Francisco is planning to do the same by 2020.
Renewable Energy Long Island Executive Director Gordian Raacke echoed Mr. Cantwell’s dire predictions about climate change.
“Leaders at the state level recognize this crisis,” he said. “This is probably the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced.”
Mr. Raacke said carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are now routinely above 400 parts per million, and could be as high as 600 parts per million by mid century. These are already the highest levels in 800,000 years.
Scientists have set a benchmark of reducing atmospheric carbon to 350 parts per million, which would limit the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius.
“We have to do it quickly,” he said. “We need to reduce our carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, and we may need to go as far as 95 percent.”
East Hampton Town consumes about 310,000 megawatt/hours of electricity per year, and the town is working on several ideas for solar farms that could produce a greater share of the town’s electricity.
But to reach the 2020 goal, they will need a substantial amount of power from wind.
Mr. Raacke, who is originally from Germany, said much of Europe has already accepted that offshore wind needs to play a major role in their energy future.
“In Germany, they call this ‘the great transformation,'” he said. “It’s amazing to see what people are doing. I hope the South Fork and the entire island will go that same route. We can do this. We have to do it.”