The state Thruway Authority announced its plans Thursday to build five wind turbines in Western New York, four of which will be located in Chautauqua County.
The first of the five turbines is planned for construction in 2012 at Exit 59 in the town of Dunkirk. The three others planned for Chautauqua County would be located at the Silver Creek Thruway exit; the Westfield maintenance facility, near Exit 60; and the toll barrier in the town of Ripley.
The fifth would be located at the Eden/Angola interchange in the town of Evans at Exit 57A.
As explained Thursday by the Thruway Authority, the power generated by the wind turbines will be used internally to power Thruway Authority facilities. When fully constructed, according to Betsy Feldstein, Thruway Authority spokeswoman, the turbines will produce more than 30 percent of the energy consumed in the Buffalo Division.
All will be owned and operated by the Thruway Authority, and are to be located on Thruway Authority right-of-ways.
“We feel it’s a win-win project,” Feldstein told The Post-Journal on Thursday. These are the first (turbines for the Thruway Authority). This is something that’s been in the process and we’ve been working on, the main reason being to save money and to use renewable energy. We’re basically thinking of the future.”
According to Feldstein, four of the five turbines will be 100 kilowatt turbines and one is intended to be a 275 kilowatt turbine.
“Those are the specific ones (being proposed), but they could vary,” Feldstein said.
The Thruway Authority is budgeting $4.8 million for the design and construction of the wind turbines, with design costs estimated at $500,000. Construction estimates are not yet available, Feldstein said Thursday.
Feldstein said Thursday that the recent approval of the “Remote Net Metering” law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo now makes wind energy even more economical, and allows for quicker payback of scarce investment dollars.
“Basically, we have the go-ahead and it’s under way,” Feldstein said. “And, of course, things change, but this is our plan and this is what we plan on doing.”
Previous to the new “Remote Net Metering” law, wind energy turbines could only power an adjoining facility through one electrical meter. The new law allows owners of renewable energy systems such as wind turbines to receive a credit on utility bills for any unused power supplied to the electric grid. The credit then offsets the power consumed from the grid at other facilities the customer owns, as long as the facility is in the same “utility load zone” as the installed renewable energy system.
Asked about possible opposition, the Thruway Authority spokeswoman said simply that the Thruway Authority has its plan and intends to begin moving forward.
“We hope that this is going to go smoothly, but you can’t predict,” Feldstein said. “You can only hope for good things. We’ve done a lot of planning and work on this and we’re excited about it. It’s a win-win.”
County Executive Greg Edwards said Thursday that county officials have been working for some time with the Thruway Authority on the locations of local wind turbines.
Edwards continue on to say that Chautauqua County has several locations for the construction of wind turbines for the same reasons that the region’s potential for wind energy has been being studied by others.
“When I received communication from the Thruway Authority some time ago that they were investigating this, it was only natural that we provide them with whatever info or support or direction that they requested,” Edwards said. “They have been taking that and working on it internally and I am pleased to see that their analysis has resulted in confirmation that our wind here in Chautauqua County has a commercial viability.”
Edwards continued on to point out that wind energy brings with it many positives.
“Anything that can be done with the appropriate analysis on the environment to reduce our dependency on non-renewable forms of energy and increase the renewable sources while at the same time cutting our overall tax costs is certainly an appropriate pursuit,” Edwards said. “I congratulate the Thruway Authority on taking these steps.”
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