SACKETS HARBOR – The Galloo Island wind farm developer has submitted a proposal to the state that calls for 31 turbines nearly 600 feet tall and an underwater transmission route to a substation in Oswego County.
Previously unclear details about the 102.3-megawatt wind farm planned on the town of Hounsfield island are outlined in a Public Involvement Program plan submitted last month by Albany-based Hudson Energy Development to the state Public Service Commission.
The move marks the official start of the required Article 10 siting process for the project, which is overseen by the PSC. Among other things, Hudson’s plan identifies a list of project stakeholders and highlights how the public will participate in the review process. It is available online at http://wdt.me/3VAEdK.
After reviewing the Hudson plan, however, the PSC informed the developer in a July 15 letter that it will need to make several revisions before submitting a preliminary scoping statement for the project – the next step in the review process. Calling Hudson’s plan “inadequate in several areas,” the letter states that the developer’s proposed study area for the project should be expanded to include more municipalities that would be affected by the view of the wind farm.
The island’s closest mainland access is Stony Point, six miles away in the town of Henderson.
The proposed wind farm, which would sell power to the electrical grid, is smaller in scope than the original 246-megawatt, 82-turbine version proposed on the island by Upstate NY Power Corp. of West Seneca. But because of the visual impact of taller proposed turbines, the PSC said that Hudson’s study area required for the project should at least be the same in scope as the one required for Upstate.
Taller than the 410-foot, 3-megawatt turbines proposed by Upstate, Hudson’s 3.3-megawatt turbines would have a total height up to 575 feet and a blade length of up to 210 feet, according to the developer’s plan.
Hudson has proposed a study area with a radius of five miles surrounding the island, which is needed to meet minimum state requirements. Under that criteria, Hounsfield would be the only municipality in the area.
But the PSC said that Hudson won’t be able to use the those requirements because the visual impact of the turbines would be much greater than a five-mile radius from the island. The PSC said the study area should be extended to at least 15 miles, including coastal area along the northeastern Lake Ontario shoreline. Those are the same criteria that were required under Upstate’s proposal, which was dismissed by the PSC in 2013 after the project had been stalled for about three years.
The letter states that because of larger turbines proposed at the site, the PSC “advises that the study area for visual assessments should be extended at a minimum, to the range of distances used” for Upstate’s proposal.
William M. Moore, the principal of Hudson, previously told the Times that Hudson plans to seek a 20-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement from the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency that would need approval from the county, Hounsfield and Sackets Harbor Central School District. Because the island is in Hounsfield, Henderson would see no tax benefit.
Mr. Moore did not respond Friday to multiple calls seeking comment.
CHANGES TO ROUTE
Hudson’s plan states the project calls for the construction of a 31-mile underwater transmission line that would connect to a 115-kilovolt substation operated by National Grid on the mainland in Oswego; no overhead transmission line would be built under the plan.
The New York Independent Systems Operator has approved the Oswego County substation as an interconnection site, according to its interconnection queue, which lists wind projects actively being planned across the state. The queue states the project is expected to be operational by the end of 2017. The developer is listed in the queue as Hudson North Country Wind 1 LLC, a subsidiary created by Hudson for the project.
Donald C. Alexander, CEO of the JCIDA, said Friday he was surprised that Hudson has quietly submitted plans to the PSC for its project without notifying the agency.
In March, Mr. Moore told the Times that Hudson planned to build a transmission line to a substation in Jefferson County because National Grid wasn’t receptive to its proposal for an underwater route to Oswego County; he said the utility was opposed to the plan because infrastructure there supports nuclear plants in the area.
“That’s frankly the last time we heard from them,” Mr. Alexander said, adding that he was unaware Hudson had started the Article 10 review process. “We had been encouraging them to bring the line to Jefferson County because we could have used it to upgrade some of our systems. We hadn’t known they decided on the Oswego County route.”
Mr. Alexander added that he doesn’t believe the taller turbines proposed by Hudson will have a significant impact on the public’s perception of the project. If a tax break is pursued by Hudson, the JCIDA will negotiate the agreement with municipalities on behalf of the developer.
“I’m not sure that anyone could distinguish the difference if they’re six to seven miles away,” Mr. Alexander said. “My thinking is that if you’re opposed to a wind farm on Galloo Island, you’re going to be opposed to the turbines, whether they’re 400, 500 or 600 feet tall. But if you see any value in wind energy, you’ll probably support it … From my vantage point, all we can do is present the plan to the taxing jurisdictions.”
On the island, the project would include the construction of about 14 miles of gravel roads, two meteorological towers, a harbor facility, a maintenance building and permanent housing for operational staff, according to the PIP plan. The project is expected to create 120 temporary construction jobs. Eight full-time employees are expected to work at the site over the project’s operational period of about 20 years.
Hudson’s next steps remain unclear.
In its PIP plan, Hudson states it planned to hold two public “open-house style” meetings in July and August in the village of Sackets Harbor and the town of Henderson. But officials from those municipalities said Friday that they haven’t yet been contacted by Hudson.
The developer said it plans to launch a website by Aug. 1 that will provide updates on the project and be updated “on at least a monthly basis.” The website for the project will be accessible at http://www.hudsonenergydev.com.
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