Dan Rattiner's Stories

We Can Win: Power to the People Entirely from the East End Wind

Why would anyone oppose Deepwater Wind's proposed windmills off Montauk?

I do not understand the opposition to having 16 windmills out in the Atlantic Ocean that could power all of the homes on the South Fork to end our dependence on fossil fuel. Nothing could be better than this.

And if it works on the South Fork, there could be more of them out there that could provide power for practically all the nearly 8 million people of Long Island.

The company that is proposing these windmills, which are over the horizon from land, already has a five-windmill project out in the ocean—within sight of Block Island—in business now for over a year. It provides all the power to Block Island, population 1,051, and to all the tourists who are there in the summertime, estimated at 15,000 a day. Block Island is just 16 miles out from Montauk.

I spoke yesterday with Lars Trodson, who is the editor of The Block Island Times—a newspaper I founded on the island in 1970 and 12 years later sold—and asked him how things were going. A lot of objections being bandied about here on the East End by opponents of the windmills reference Block Island.

Some seem reasonable. Others preposterous. A preposterous one was that they originally planned to build six windmills off Block Island but one had to be torpedoed after it was built.

“I won’t even dignify that with an answer,” Lars said. “There were never to be more than five.”

Here are some other questions and accusations I’ve heard.

Q: The fish around the base of the five windmills are dying. They cannot spawn. It’s an ecological disaster.

“The charter and commercial fishermen on Block Island report a great improvement around the foundations of the windmills. There’s more fish.”

The power provided by the windmills goes by cable into a power grid and is gone. Never gets to benefit those by the shore.

“We had a series of diesel gasoline-powered generators providing power for Block Island. When they pulled the switch to provide the power from the windmills, we turned off the diesel generators. They are available to be turned on in an emergency, but so far we have not had to do so. All our electricity comes from the wind farms. And it is sufficient.”

All the environmental studies made to get permits to put in the windmills were paid for by the developer of the windmills. For example, there’s the electromagnetic fields created by the underwater cables to the mainland. The developers paid for the study.

“A study of those emissions now that the power lines are working was recently done by students and professors from the University of Rhode Island. They found the emissions to be a non-issue—they are within the acceptable range.

“I can’t speak for the studies done before the windmills were built, but I do know that the company now makes frequent reports to the EPA as they go along and, so far, so good.”

Prices have gone up with wind power.

“The prices we pay for electricity here on Block Island are now stabilized, as promised. We no longer are subject to surcharges when the price of diesel fuel goes up.”

The fishing boats avoid the windmills.

“Not only are the fishermen finding more fish around the foundations, they are also busy taking tourists out to see the windmills up close. It’s a whole new tourist industry.”

*****

Here’s something I could not ask Lars about because the windmill farm out at Block Island is done and done.

The big oil companies are trying to get leases for the next round of windmills off Long Island because they get rebates for doing wind farms. It’s all about the money.

To which I reply: When a guy mows your lawn, he wants the money for having done it. So? The oil companies are in the energy business. As energy from fossil fuel goes down, wind power goes up. So yes, they want the money. So what?

I see no good arguments opposing the building of offshore windmills to create power for the human activities of the future here on the East End. If there are good reasons, please let me know.

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