Where natural gas wells once were proposed, a sprawling wind farm may sprout.
Plans for up to 40 wind turbines spread across 38,000 acres – 60 square miles – of rural parcels once considered prime Marcellus Shale territory in eastern Broome County are now taking shape.
The project, sponsored by Calpine, is expected to generate 124 megawatts, enough juice to power 20,000 homes, sponsors said.
Property owners in Windsor and Sanford, where prospectors laid out big money for now-expired natural gas leases, are being approached by the Houston-based energy company to lease land for the turbines, some of which can reach nearly 600-feet in height from base to top tip of the blade.
In terms of power generated, the planned wind farm will be among the larger projects in the state, although other projects for as much as 400 megawatts are also on the drawing board.
The closest existing wind farm Dutch Hill/Cohocton in Steuben County with 50 turbines, producing 125 megawatts of electricity. It came on line in 2008.
New York now has 17 commercial wind farms across upstate producing 1,827 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply 9 percent of the state’s needs, based on estimates from the New York Independent Systems Operator, which oversees operation of the statewide grid.
Broome County’s potential for supporting a massive wind project had long been downplayed because it was thought the prevailing breeze was insufficient to generate power efficiently. Calpine representatives said. However, advances in turbine technology enable towers to generate enough power even with in areas not known for gusty conditions.
“If you look at the turbine manufacturers, there have been large advances in increasing output and productivity,” said Alex Jarvis, project manager for the Bluestone Wind, the established name of the initiative.
Between 4 and 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9 at the State Theatre in Deposit, Jarvis and other specialists in environmental and construction aspects of the project will present an overview and answer questions. The public session is a requirement as the company proceeds with elements of the regulatory review.
Reviewing the project will be the New York Public Service Commission, along with officials from the towns of Windsor and Sanford.
Carolyn Price, Town of Windsor supervisor, said she has been in close contact with Bluestone representatives for almost two years, noting that development of wind generation has been part of the community’s comprehensive plan for about 10 years.
Calpine “selected the proposed site for the facility because of the presence of the wind resource, the presence of available land and willing landowners, the relative ease of access to the site … and the proximity and relative ease of connecting to the existing electric transmission grid,” reads a 197-page preliminary scoping document.
Among the groups raising concern has been the Delaware Otsego Audubon Society, which is trying to determine the impact on bald and golden eagles in the region, among other bird species.
The group currently is undertaking a month-long study of bird migratory habits for review by New York regulators.
“We’re actually supporters of wind power but we want to make sure they are not putting birds at undue risk,” said Andrew Mason, the Stamford-based co-president of the Delaware Otsego Audubon Society.
Aesthetic objections have been muted, Price said.
“Visually, we’re going to see them. There is no way to change that.” Price said. “Some people think they are very graceful and people don’t.”
As a part of the project, Calpine expects to build up to a four-mile electric transmission line to bring the wind generated electricity into a 115-kilovolt line in Sanford to connect to the statewide grid.
Total wind farm construction costs have not been disclosed, Jarvis said, because it is still early in the process. Turbine manufacturers have not been selected, and other elements of the plan are still being assessed.
However, a disclosure document indicates that lease payments for land owners hosting the turbines will be between $2,500 and $30,000 annually by Calpine for the right to build a turbine on their property.
Ironically, some of the same landowners being pursued by Calpine could be among the same group that signed a $90 million, $2,411 an acre deal from XTO Energy for natural gas drilling lease rights in May 2008. Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas was barred by the New York three years ago, and the natural gas lease rights for the property expired.
Jarvis said signing lease rights for with Calpine doesn’t preclude the same property owners from also getting a natural gas lease in the future if the process ever wins approval in the state.
“There’s no eminent domain,” Price said of the wind farm leases. “It’s really up to the landowners to decide if they want their land used this way.”
New York commercial wind farm developers have been encouraged to build in the state due to generous grants and regulatory support from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s green energy initiative, which calls for 50 percent of generation capacity to come from renewables by 2030.
The generating capacity of wind-powered projects in New York grew from 48 MW in 2005 to 1,827 MW in 2017, according to NYISO estimates. (Though there’s constant debate on the issue, the common formula is 1 MW can supply from 500 to 1,000 homes depending on individual electric demand) Projects capable of supplying another 4,807 MW of wind power currently are proposed. Twelve proposals are under review by state regulators ranging from 100 MW to 400 MW in generating capacity, most in northern and western New York.
On the horizon, however, is the giant of all wind power projects, a 1,000 MW, $1 billion wind farm that would be about 30 miles east of Long Island.
Texas is the reigning king in wind power capacity with 20,320 MW of installed capacity, followed by Iowa, with 6,911 MW. New York stands is 13th among the nation’s leaders in wind power generation, according to data supplied by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Start of construction on the Windsor/Sanford project isn’t scheduled to begin until late 2019 or early 2020, after an extensive review by state regulators and municipal officials.
“It’s very involved and thorough process over a long period of time,” Price of Windsor said of the project review. “When you take something over a long period of time you get a very good outcome.”
If you go
Subject: Bluestone Wind Farm Project Overview
Time: 4 p.m.-7 p.m.
Date: Tursday, Nov. 9
Place: State Theatre, 148 Front St., Deposit.
New York Wind Farms
Wethersfield Wind Farm, Wyoming County, 10 turbines, output 7 MW, Built 2000
Madison Wind Farm, Madison County, 7 turbines, output 12 MW, Built 2000
Fenner Wind Farm, Madison County, 20 turbines, output 30 MW, Built 2002
Maple Ridge Farm, Lewis County, 140 turbines, output 322 MW, Built 2006
Munnsville Wind Farm, Madison and Oneida counties, 23 turbines, output 35 MW, Built 2007
Steel Winds, Erie County, 14 turbines, output 35 MW, Built 2007, 2012
Noble Clinton Wind Park, Clinton County, 67 turbines, 101 MW, Built 2008
Noble Bliss Wind Farm, Wyoming County, 67 turbines, 101 MW, Built 2008
Dutch Hill/Cohocton Wind Farm, Steuben County, 50 turbines, 125 MW, Built 2008
Noble Ellenburg Windpark, Clinton County, 54 turbines, 81 MW, Built 2008
Noble Altona Wind Park, Clinton County, 65 turbines, 98 MW, Built 2009
Noble Chateaugay Windpark, Franklin County, 71 turbines, 107 MW, Built 2009
Noble Wethersfield Windpark, Wyoming County, 84 turbines, 126 MW, Built 2009
High Sheldon Wind Farm, Wyoming County, 75 turbines, 113 MW, Built 2009
Hardscrabble Wind Farm, Herkimer County, 37 turbines, 74 MW, Built 2011
Marble River Wind Farm, Clinton County, 70 turbines, 215 MW, Built 2012
Orangeville Wind Farm, Wyoming County, 58 turbines, 89 MW, Built 2014
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding