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NYRI official: project could lead to more upstate wind farms

A high-voltage transmission line running through Central New York could spur the creation of environmentally friendly wind farms across the state, according to an official with the company that hopes to build the line.

Bill May, project manager for the Albany-based New York Regional Interconnect Inc., said Tuesday he has already spoken to would-be wind farm developers who would likely benefit from construction of the transmission line from Utica to the lower Hudson Valley.

he $1.6 billion, roughly 200-mile project has run into stiff political opposition in New York, where many upstate residents fear it would spoil their surroundings and property values.

Given that political climate, NYRI may find a more receptive audience in Washington. A federal agency could override local objections and allow it to proceed as a nationally important energy project. May insisted Tuesday the company can still win state approval and NYRI representatives are in Washington this week to make their case to elected officials.

“I’ve met with a number of wind project developers who have a large inventory of suitable sites because New York has just a wonderful natural resource of wind,” May said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“There’s lot of wind sites that are currently being viewed for development, however they can’t be economically developed. It’s not a suitable investment until they know there’s a path to the market. That’s where our environmental message comes in,” May said.

Wind farms can generate enemies among nearby residents who find them unsightly, but modern windmills are also supported by many environmentalists as a vastly cleaner source of energy than coal or oil.

May declined to say which elected officials NYRI will meet with, but aides to Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton are scheduled to meet with them Thursday. Both senators have expressed doubts about the project, which has few proponents in the state outside of New York City and its immediate suburbs.

The line would not directly feed New York City’s energy demands, but it would make power transmission more efficient in the densely populated, high-demand area.

Schumer has criticized NYRI for having what he calls a “my way or the highway” approach, while Clinton has criticized the proposed route and said the issue should be decided by state officials, not a federal agency.

May warned that “without making some decisions now we will begin to see, you know, significant reliability shortfalls” in New York’s supply of electricity. “NYRI, again, is a long term solution. It’s only a component of the state’s long-term energy plan, but it’s a vital component.”

By Devlin Barrett
Associated Press Writer


27 February 2007