The Lackawanna Planning Board Thursday approved site plans for the second phase of the Steel Winds turbine project along Route 5.
The approval paves the way for 13 additional turbines to be erected on the property, on which 11 of the turbines would be located further inland, roughly midway between the Lake Erie shoreline and Route 5 on the old Bethlehem Steel site.
The developer, Clipper Windpower, first broke ground in 2005 on the $40 million wind-energy project, erecting eight turbines along the lake shore after agreeing to pay the city $100,000 annually over the next 15 years.
The Planning Board’s approval on Thursday actually covers 11 additional turbines. The board had previously, in 2005, approved two turbines north of the existing eight that were never constructed.
“So when we first came in with concept of Steel Winds, we had applied for site plan approval of 10 turbines,” Paul F. Curran, managing director of BQ Energy, explained after the meeting.
“We only built eight, though the approval [for 10 turbines] remained valid,” Curran added.
In all, 26 windmills are planned for the site. In addition to the existing eight and the 13 others that will be erected in Lackawanna, BQ Energy has already received approval from Hamburg officials to build another five turbines along the lake shore in Hamburg.
Even though, by state law, renewable energy projects like the Steel Winds farm are tax-exempt, the Lackawanna City Council last October unanimously adopted a law that would allow the city to collect property taxes on the second phase of the Steel Winds turbine project.
Instead, city officials worked out an agreement with the company in which it will pay the city $10,000 per megawatt for the power capacity generated by the turbines.
Each of the existing eight turbines in Lackawanna generates 2.5 megawatts of power, Curran said. If the additional 13 turbines each generates the same amount of power, that would be 32.5 megawatts and Lackawanna would receive $325,000 annually in taxes.
However, Curran said it has not yet been decided whether or not BQ Energy will use the same kind of turbines in the second phase of the Steel Winds project.
“We have to get all of our [other] approvals from the city and then we can go about the business of financing and ordering equipment,” said Curran. “The ones we have out there now are as big as they come. Our survey of the market is that they would either be [2.5 megawatts each] or a little bit less.”
He added that a firm date for when construction is to begin has not yet been set.
“We really have to get the equipment ordered now. Wind turbines are in popular demand. So it can take as much as two years to get the equipment on site. It might be 2010 that we get it. We’re still hopeful that we can get the equipment in by 2009 but likely it’s 2010,” Curran said.
By Harold McNeil
News Staff Reporter
11 July 2008
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