A newly formed wind energy developer is in the early stages of planning a project in southern Cayuga County that could site up to 22 large turbines.
Albany-based Liberty Renewables Inc. has started outreach to residents in the proposed project area in the towns of Venice, Scipio and Moravia. The company has been securing leases with landowners since 2020 with the goal of siting turbines that could produce up to 100 megawatts of electricity. That output, which would be sold into the state’s energy grid, is enough to power about 30,000 homes.
In addition to mailing letters to project neighbors and communicating with town boards, Liberty held an open-house style event at Fillmore Glen State Park last week to introduce the project to area residents and answer questions. About 75 people stopped by over the course of four hours, said Molly Dunton, Liberty’s project developer.
“This was really our first chance to get into the community,” she said, adding that there will be another event likely in the fall. “We take community engagement very seriously.”
In addition to the wind turbines in Cayuga County – which is named Agricola Wind – Liberty has proposals for two smaller-scale projects in Madison County.
Besides introducing itself to the community, Liberty Renewal’s currently focused on preparing a bid for renewable energy credit from the state, a key aspect of financing the project. That bid will be filed in August.
The company is also working on its formal application with the state under the green energy project siting process signed into law last year. Preparing that application can take 12 to 16 months, Dunton said, and the state’s newly created Office of Renewable Energy Siting then has a year to make a decision on whether to issue a permit.
The Agricola Wind project timeline anticipates construction starting in 2024, with the turbines going into operation in 2025. The project’s lifespan would be 25 years.
Liberty said its turbines would require about 1 to 2 acres of land, and would stand up to 650 feet tall from the tower base to the tip of the blade. The turbines would be placed no closer than 1,500 feet from any occupied buildings, including homes and schools.
Under New York state law, noise output from the turbines would be limited to 45 weighted decibels from any residence that is not connected with a lease, and 55 for residences that are linked to a lease. Liberty says that noise level is comparable to a refrigerator or rainfall.
Liberty was formed as a joint venture of Natural Forces and ProWind Renewables, a pair of wind energy companies with more than 55 wind projects operating in Europe and Canada.
That experience has Liberty looking to provide host communities with financial benefits beyond what’s required under state law. New York currently requires wind facilities to pay out $1,000 per megawatt each year divided among all electricity customers in a host community, which for the Cayuga County project would amount to an estimated $33.
“As you can see, while it’s great that the state now has some local benefit requirement, it’s not a large enough amount to appease most people,” Dunton said.
“This is why you will see that most wind and solar developers will still work to strike up Host Community Benefit Agreement payments to the tune of several additional thousands of dollars per MW per year,” she said “We have begun these negotiations with the Towns of Venice and Scipio, but are still at least a year or two away from having anything finalized.”
In addition to any payments to local governments under a host community agreement, Liberty also plans to make direct payments to neighbors of its turbines who do not have lease agreements. Those payments would amount to about $2 million over the 25-year life of the project. Lease payments to landowners would amount to an estimated $8 million, and the company would seek a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes deal that would result in up to $10 million paid to municipalities and school districts.
Liberty’s venture into the New York state green energy market is not unique. Scores of solar and wind projects are in various stages of development throughout the state. Driving the trend are financial incentives from the state as part of its long-term renewable energy goals, which include include an 85% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, net-zero emissions from the state’s grid by 2040 and 70% of New York’s electricity coming from renewal sources by 2030.
The Agricola Wind project is the first large-scale wind farm proposed for Cayuga County. There are already several solar projects in development.
The largest new energy project proposed in Cayuga County is a 200-megawatt solar farm that’s being reviewed under the state’s older energy facility siting process. Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources is looking to site solar panels on more than 1,000 acres of land inside a larger project area footprint of roughly 2,300 acres. About 370 area residents have signed a petition opposing that project, which NextEra aims to bring online in 2023.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding