A long dormant wind project in Franklin County might be coming back to life.
Recently, the proposed Jericho Rise Wind Farm won part of an award of $206 million from NYSERDA, the state energy agency. If EDP Renewables gets the go-ahead, about 37 new wind turbines would be coming to the North Country in 2017 (the exact number of turbines is not final yet).
Wind projects like these have been controversial across the region, and Jericho Rise is no exception.
If you’ve ever driven between Plattsburgh and Malone, you’ve probably seen them, just off of Route 11 or the Military Turnpike: the giant, white propellers, towering over the woods and fields in Chateaugay, Ellenburg, Clinton, Altona, and Churubusco.
Joyce King of Chateaugay loves those wind parks.
“They’re majestic. The first day that I saw these towers that went up over on the Marble River project, I took a walk up over the hill. And when I got to the top of the hill, and I saw those towers they had just put up within two or three days, it was like, ‘Thank you, God. There’s some wise people around this area!’”
Joyce and her husband Richard run the Red Barn Christmas Tree Farm in the town of Bellmont. Four of the 37-or-so Jericho Rise turbines would be on their property, but the proposed site is mostly in the town of Chateaugay – just to the southwest of the Noble Chateaugay Wind Park.
The site is mostly open fields and farms, and the houses are far apart from one another. Property owners like the Kings would get an annual payment for hosting the turbines on their land. The Kings say they think it would be as high as $30 or $40 thousand a year, although EDP hasn’t made that promise.
Joyce said for her, the wind is a valuable resource.
“We have a lot of wind. There’s just no two ways about it. And I know you’ve got some people say there isn’t enough wind. Well you come live up here you’ll know darn well there’s enough wind,” she said.
One of the people who say wind isn’t worth harnessing in Franklin County is Malone town councilman Jack Sullivan. He has been an opponent of North Country wind projects for years.
“If you do the math for industrial wind in northern New York, they never reach the point where they’re actually fighting carbon emissions,” he said.
Sullivan helped pass a ban on wind turbines in the town of Malone. He’s against more of them coming to the region for lots of reasons, but mostly, he said, he doesn’t believe wind companies can produce as much power as they say they can.
“They’re very inefficient and the only reason they are viable at all is because they’re very heavily subsidized,” he said.
Most other forms of energy, including oil and natural gas, are also subsidized.
Erin Bowser, Director of EDP Renewables’ Eastern Region, said the company has done its homework, and Jericho Rise would help slow down climate change. She said the power generated from Jericho Rise would be the equivalent of taking 27,000 cars off the road.
“Large companies like ours and others that are developing and spending the capital to build projects in the North Country clearly see it to be a very productive part of the country for wind, and profitable,” she said, later adding that the recent award from NYSERDA was the result of a competitive bidding process. “Presumably the winner is offering the state the lowest price for what they need to be in compliance with renewable energy standards,” she said.
“We’re always modeling different turbines for our sites. So I’m confident that we will have the most productive turbine on the market producing power at this site.”
She said Jericho Rise would produce enough energy to power 21,000 homes – but that energy wouldn’t stay local. It would go into the grid.
Bowser hopes to wrap up the permitting process by next summer. But she s whether the project goes forward depends on whether the U.S. Congress passes an extension of wind’s biggest subsidy: a production tax credit for wind companies. A decision on that is due before the end of the year.
Joyce King said she knows Jericho Rise won’t happen overnight. “Hopefully we’re going to live long enough to reap some of the benefits,” she said.