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Fight The Power: The Problems With LIPA and National Grid

Harnessing the power of the sun: A solar-panel display in Hempstead. Panels such as these are being installed on rooftops across Long Island.

Catch the Wind
It’s too bad that LIPA’s achievements in alternative energy get overlooked, such as its growing commitment to solar energy and other “renewables,” as they’re called in the industry, because the utility knows it must wean itself of fossil fuels eventually.

For the third straight year the Washington, D.C.-based Solar Electric Power Association has named LIPA among America’s “most solar integrated utilities in the country.” Construction is already underway on “Suffolk Solar Carport Project,” a partnership with the county and LIPA, to ultimately produce 50 megawatts, enough to power 6,500 households, from solar panels on the rooftops of seven carports on county-owned parking lots at the H. Lee Dennison Building and the North County Complex in Hauppauge, the Cohalan Court Complex in Central Islip, the Riverhead County Center, as well as Long Island Rail Road stations in Brentwood, Ronkonkoma and Deer Park.


Recently, LIPA joined with Brookhaven National Laboratory and BP Solar on what some energy advocates say is the largest solar project of its kind east of the Mississippi. When the solar farm is up and running, possibly as soon as October, it could generate up 36 megawatts, which LIPA has agreed to purchase for $298 million in a 20-year contract. [Bear in mind that on a peak summer day last July LIPA had to supply 5,825 megawatts; this year its load capacity is 6818 megawatts, and 7240 megawatts just in case all hell breaks loose.] Converting 195 acres in the core of the Pine Barrens for this solar project gives Pine Barrens Society President Dick Amper no end of agita because it was federal property, and he couldn’t stop it if he tried.

“BNL did what no one else in the core could have done,” he tells the Press.

LIPA trustee and long-time environmentalist Neal Lewis supported the project.

“One of the leading laboratories in the country is now involved in solar research,” he says, “and I thought that was an important goal.”

Adrienne Esposito of Citizens Campaign for the Environment is “thrilled” with solar installation.

“That’s not parkland,” she says, “and let me tell you it’s not pristine.”

In an inspired move, LIPA joined with EmPower Solar to help install 45 new solar panel systems on the rooftops of buildings belonging to the Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, Inc., which could produce more than a kilowatt of electricity annually, reducing the nonprofit organization’s bills by 27 percent. So far, LIPA’s helped put more than 4,300 solar panels on the Island’s rooftops.

So the utility is clearly looking ahead, as it must. It’s also taken a look at its energy past, announcing a plan to shut down its old steam-generating facilities at Glenwood Landing and Far Rockaway, the region’s most antiquated and least-efficient power plants dating back to the 1950s, which provide only 2 percent of the Island’s power. The decision, set for next year, should save LIPA about $76 million through 2015, but could cost local school districts $20 million for Glenwood and $4 million for Far Rockaway in reduced property taxes.

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