HENDERSON – Apex Clean Energy has withdrawn an application for the Galloo Island Wind project that would have brought the power generated by more than 30 large-scale turbines through an electrical substation in Oswego.
Earlier this month Apex withdrew its application, known as an Article 10 under state Public Service Commission law, for the Galloo Island project, saying it would no longer seek a certificate of environmental compatibility. The action comes more than three years after the initial application was submitted, and more than a decade after a previous developer first proposed the project.
Apex Vice President of Public Affairs Dahvi Wilson said the company is focused on bringing successful renewable energy projects to market, and the development of renewable projects is “a time and resource intensive business.” Wilson said maintaining one of the nation’s strongest project portfolios is at the company’s core.
“We continuously review our development assets to maintain the proper balance of risk and opportunity in our nation-wide portfolio of development assets, and when adjustments are required we make them,” Wilson said in a statement.
Located in Lake Ontario and part of the town of Hounsfield, Galloo Island is roughly six miles from the shore near the town of Henderson. Apex, acting as Galloo Island Wind LLC, planned to construct more than 30 574-foot turbines that would generate 110MW of power.
Apex proposed running the transmission lines for the power through Lake Ontario to Oswego in order to connect to the state’s power grid.
Previous proposals at the site sought to construct more than 80 turbines at the site, but those plans failed in 2013.
Wilson said the company would be open to reinitiating the permitting process for Galloo Island in the future.
Port Authority of Oswego Director Bill Scriber said he was “surprised” by the news and “to an extent sad for our local economy.” Local officials were expecting the project to bring significant activity to the port, with the expectation turbine parts could be shipped in and out of the facility.
“These projects are good for our port,” Scriber said. “It was going to be more than a one-year event. It was going to be an ongoing partnership.”
Scriber said the project would have brought nearly a million dollars into the area for start-up costs between wages and third party cranes.
“It was going to bring a lot of jobs,” Scriba said of the Gallo Island project. “I am saddened for the number of people it could have employed.”
Though the project would have provided an economic boon to the port, Scriber said the port has “other irons in the fire,” including other wind projects, and plans to move on.
Public opposition to the project was clear from the start, with concerns over local migratory birds and fish spawning beds. Residents expressed concerns at an informational forum held in October at Oswego City Hall.
Oswego resident Carol Bain expressed concern about the windmills on Galloo Island and the effect it could have on the bird and fish populations. Bain wondered if the 33-mile cable that would run along the lakebed could kill fish or impact drinking water.
During the presentation, officials spoke about how the cable would lie along the bottom of the lake and wouldn’t influence recreational fishing or shipping lanes.
The project hit a major snag in late 2018 when findings surfaced that an environmental survey failed to include the discovery of a bald eagle’s nest.
State agencies, including the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), withdrew from agreements with the developer.
Representatives of the developer noted an island caretaker had brought a potential bald eagle’s nest to their attention, but consultants said the nest contained no birds, eggs or chicks.
Shawn Graff, vice president of the Great Lakes Region of the American Bird Conservancy, called the withdrawal of the application “a positive step.” Graff said the “whole exercise” surrounding the Galloo Island wind project demonstrated the need for a new process for sighting large-scale wind projects.
Applicants are required to do the analysis and monitoring for the projects, Graff said, and in this case “the applicant withheld information regarding the discovery of a bald eagle’s nest.”
“It demonstrates that there should be a third-party evaluation,” he said. “And not a consultant hired by the wind energy company.”
Graff said in the future state agencies and other parties should be doing adequate studies of the impact of such projects, which he said could impact large raptors that are more susceptible to wind towers than other bird species. He said Galloo Island is in the path of a “major migratory flyway,” and could have been detrimental to several species.
“The America Bird Conservancy is not against wind energy,” Graff said. “We see it as one of the energy solutions in terms of moving away from fossil fuels, however the sighting of these wind energy towers is critical.”
Graff said studies wind turbines kill up to a million birds annually, and that number is likely to grow based on the number of wind towers expected in the coming years.
“We could be losing three to five million birds annually if the projected increase of wind towers are on target,” he said.