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First stages of construction to begin on Number Three Wind

LOWVILLE – Invenergy’s Number Three Wind Farm, which will add 27 turbines to Lewis County, will begin the first stage of construction this week with a full construction start eyed for July.

Permission was granted by the state Thursday for Number Three to start building the “laydown yard” at 8021 Number Three Road and the Point of Interconnection switchyard at 7181 Route 812, after the company filed documents proving they have met the conditions attached to the Certificate of Public Need and Environmental Compatibility granted to the project in November 2019.

According to the public notice issued by the company, site clearing work will be done from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

The company also filed the detailed final draft of the $4.5 million decommissioning plan for the project Thursday.

According to the plan, the project is anticipated to have a 40-year lifespan, but the “trigger event” for taking the wind farm out of commission and dismantling it is if it has not produced energy for 12 continuous months unless that yearlong lapse is caused by a natural or man-made disaster or some sort of repair or project improvement.

The steps in decommissioning will include the dismantling of wind turbines including the blades, nacelle and tower; the removal of the electrical system and substation; the dismantling and removal of the operations and maintenance building; the removal of wind turbine pads and foundations; the removal of access and service roads; and site reclamation including returning soil, vegetation and other site aspects “to conditions as close to pre-construction characteristics as possible.”

Everything above ground built for the wind farm will be removed, reused on other projects, recycled or sold for scrap as with the various metal components of the plant, as much as possible.

Foundations and buried lines will be removed to a depth of at least 3 feet in non-agricultural areas and at least 4 feet below the surface in agricultural areas.

All of the decommissioning expenses will be paid for by Number Three and guaranteed with irrevocable letters of credit given to each town based on the amount to decommission all of the project components in that town. The letters will stay in effect until the process is complete, ensuring neither town is left with a clean-up bill at the end of the project.

The total cost, “in today’s dollars,” for decommissioning the 16 turbines and related roads and components in Harrisburg is anticipated to be $2.3 million, while Lowville will hold a letter guaranteeing $2.24 million to remove 11 turbines, the met tower, substation, transmission line and the operations and management building.

The company notes in the plan that it anticipates being able to cover the cost of decommissioning by selling equipment and valuable scrap from the project, but the state Department of Public Service has “declined to allow wind projects to consider scrap value in establishing financial security for decommissioning wind projects.”

As a result, they will be using “cash on hand” to remove the facility’s components and restore the area.

This has been a point of contention in some wind farm negotiations, including the early days of Number Three, primarily because of the constantly changing value of scrap prices for each material involved in the project, leaving the door open for wind companies to claim they would not have enough money to complete decommissioning.

The total cost of decommissioning per turbine in the project is about $168,155, although the document’s small print indicates an independent licensed engineer will study decommissioning costs once the wind farm begins operating and every five years thereafter.

Number Three indicated in other documents filed in May that they believe they will be granted approval to begin installing access roads and turbine foundations on June 17.