A 40-turbine wind farm electric generation project in Hopkinton and Parishville that could power as many as 24, 000 homes is moving forward despite five years of seeming inactivity.
The 100-megawatt North Ridge Wind Farm is moving up on Iberdrola Renewables’ development list, said Iberdrola Communications Manager
Paul Copleman. But he said the project is still years from completion and he could give no firm start date.
The company says it has about 20 leases with local landowners to place turbines, roads, and electric lines, and is looking for more landowners to participate.
Five years ago Iberdrola announced the first steps in the Parishville and Hopkinton plan, including putting up a few “met towers,” towers with meteorology instruments to measure the wind and other factors that would help with planning and siting decisions. They also began getting landowners to sign leases for the project, and held meetings to explain the plan to citizens and local governments. But little has been heard on the project since then.
The company’s filing of a “Public Involvement Plan” for the North Ridge Wind Farm Project with the state Public Service Commission this spring is an indication the project is moving up on Iberdrola’s list.
“There is a pipeline with projects at various stages of development at any given time,” Copelman said. The list is constantly being reviewed to “evaluate the best move forward, or what might be the best to hold onto for a little longer” before making a decision to go, hold or give up on a plan.
Copleman said the company anticipates “in the neighborhood of 40 turbines” atop 350-foot towers to be erected in the northeast part of the Town of Parishville and in northern sections of the Town of Hopkinton, primarily between State Routes 11B and 72. Some of the parcels were reportedly inside the Adirondack Park’s Blue Line.
“There still remains a lot of work evaluating sites and many years remain in the permitting process,” Copleman said.
Hedging a little bit, Copleman said Atlantic Wind LLC, “a wholly-owned subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, LLC, will develop and operate the project if they’re able to bring it to fruition.” The overall parent company is Iberdrola, SA of Spain, a leading producer of renewable power.
Each turbine, at full capacity, will generate enough power to serve 600 houses, the company said.
Atlantic Wind’s Public Involvement Plan lists local “stakeholders,” including municipal governments, school districts, agencies, and property owners adjacent to the sites, with whom the company is required to consult.
Copleman said New York’s “appetite for renewable energy, by the public and the legislature,” will be one consideration in any decision to move ahead. “The legislature has concretely laid out plans for renewable energy that is ‘made in New York'” that could include incentives for renewable power projects.
The state has taken decisions about windmills out of the hands of local governments and placed them with the state Public Service Commission.
Thus a possible roadblock has been removed, which could be an additional boost to the prospects for wind power in New York.
“We’re starting to evaluate exactly what that means for site evaluation and how that fits into the permitting process,” he said.
Getting the power out from the turbines to the grid could involve an agreement with National Grid to connect to a 115-kilovolt line along State Rt. 72.
When the windmill project was first publicly discussed here at company presentations in 2011, the presenters talked about windmills topped by turbines with peak output of two to two-and-a-half megawatts and long blades attached to each rotor extending the height of the structure to near 500 feet.
The exact output of each turbine and the height of each tower that will eventually be part of the North Ridge project aren’t known yet because the technology is moving so fast that designs could change between now and the actual time of construction.
“We’re way too early in the process to know what type of turbines” will be used, Copleman said. When time comes, that will be determined by engineers and turbine suppliers after they analyze the improvements and higher efficiency expected by then.
“It’s part of taking advantage of wind resources that weren’t previously viable,” he said.
The advancing technology “has brought the price of wind energy down, and has opened up sites that 10 years ago might not have been considered before,” he said.
The company now has signed leases with 20 landowners in Parishville and Hopkinton, “and we continue to reach out to prospective land owners who might want to participate.”
A landowner could get $10, 000 a year per turbine, “but there are different ways land owners participate,” he said. Not all the land under lease is for turbine placement. “A landowner might not have a turbine but maybe some overhead or underground lines or access roads” or other accommodations for the project that would be paid different amounts.
In spite of the clean renewable energy generated by windmill developments, they are not without controversy.
Some people like the way they look, with the long blades on the turbines gliding in circles.
Some people, especially in waterfront resort areas, have expressed concern that such developments might not be seen as pleasant to look at, and will lower property values.
Opponents point to studies showing that those blades are taking down birds in significant numbers.
Before thinking about signing a lease with Atlantic Wind, one property owner in Parishville decided to go to Chateaugay to take a look – and a listen – at the Noble Chateaugay Windpark windmills there, and came back unfavorably impressed with how loud they were as he got closer.
He has serious concerns about the amount of room he would want as buffer between his family’s farmhouse and the dairy barn and a windmill.
Copelman says that with the multi-year process of obtaining the necessary permits, the company is taking a long-term view of any investment they make.
The turbines are expected to be in operation for at least 25 years.
“Over the course of 25 years of power generation the price can move up and down,” he said.
Compared with the energy cost that a natural gas or oil generation plant requires, “wind generation is very predictable, and the cost is predictable, which benefits the market and customers.”
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