Company touts its wind farm capacity in seeking state approval to buy Energy East
Iberdrola SA, the Spanish utility seeking to acquire Energy East Corp. for $4.5 billion, is the largest wind power developer in the world.
And that has been one of the company’s biggest selling points as it seeks approval from the state Public Service Commission to acquire Energy East, which has more than 1 million customers in New York, including about 45,000 in the Capital Region through its New York State Electric & Gas subsidiary.
In filings made with the PSC, Iberdrola has argued that the merger would help New York “further the state’s renewable energy goals,” including its ambitious Renewable Portfolio Standard, which calls for 25 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2013.
Wind farms are expected to play a big part in helping the state reach that goal. There are roughly 400 megawatts of wind power generation capacity in the state right now, with about 1,000 megawatts expected to be operational by the end of the year.
But research by the Times Union has found that even without the Iberdrola merger, nearly 7,000 megawatts of wind power could be in the pipeline through more than five dozen potential projects in the state.
A 2005 study by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority found that the state could handle 3,300 megawatts of wind power – about 10 percent of the state’s peak need – without seriously upgrading its transmission or operational infrastructure.
The New York Independent System Operator, the East Greenbush nonprofit group that oversees the state’s electrical grid and wholesale market, collects data on potential power plants being built in the state through what’s known as the NYISO Interconnection Queue. The document is posted on the NYISO Web site.
The current document shows 67 wind projects planned for the state, ranging from small projects of just a few megawatts to a giant 601-megawatt project planned offshore from New York City. A NYISO spokesman said the projects in the queue total nearly 7,000 megawatts.
That sounds like a lot – New York state’s peak load reaches around 33,000 megawatts on the hottest day of the year.
But don’t expect all of it to materialize, said Carol Murphy, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York, an Albany-based group that represents wind farm owners and other clean energy developers.
“Not all of those projects will get built,” said Murphy. “There’s a big difference between being in the queue and getting something in the ground.”
Murphy said the state will likely get the bulk of the renewable energy capacity needed to reach its goals through new wind farms.
And she says that a company like Iberdrola, which co-owns Maple Ridge Wind Farm in Lewis County, the largest wind farm in the state at 321 megawatts, can only help ensure more projects get done.
“I think that experience and the cash infusion is a good thing,” Murphy said.
Iberdrola officials could not be reached for comment. The PSC staff has pushed Iberdrola to divest itself of its wind farm business in the state.
Iberdrola has argued against that move, and other groups such as the state Department of Environmental Conservation have said Iberdrola’s projects will benefit the state’s renewable energy goals.
One of the largest projects in the queue has been proposed by a Long Island company called Winergy Power LLC that wants to build the 601-megawatt project about 16 miles offshore from New York City.
Dennis Quaranta, chief executive of Winergy, said the project is still a few years away from being undertaken.
“Are we serious? One hundred percent,” he said. “Do we have the resources? Absolutely.”
By Larry Rulison
19 February 2008