Cohocton Wind Watch: Southern Tier wind farm gets $74.6 million in federal grants
Cohocton Wind Watch is a community citizen organization dedicated to preserve the public safety, property values, economic viability, environmental integrity and quality of life in Cohocton, NY and in surrounding townships. Neighbors committed to public service in order to achieve a reasonable vision for a Finger Lakes region worthy of future generations.


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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Southern Tier wind farm gets $74.6 million in federal grants

The corporate owner of one of the largest wind turbine farms in upstate New York — a 50-turbine undertaking in Cohocton, Steuben County — has been given $74.6 million in federal stimulus grants.

First Wind Energy LLC of Newton, Mass., operates the 420-foot-tall turbines in the hilly town not far from the southern end of Canandaigua Lake. The two-part $230 million wind farm, known as Canandaigua Power Project I and II, has the capacity to generate up to 125 megawatts of electricity, which First Wind says is enough to power 50,000 homes.

By rated capacity, the project is the third-largest in the state, according to information compiled by the American Wind Energy Association.

Construction in Cohocton began in 2007 and the farm was formally commissioned in January of this year, said First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne. It is producing electricity, though not all 50 turbines are currently in use. Lamontagne said the turbine design is new and repairs are on-going.

"It's a good project. It's on line, and it's going to be running 100 percent or close to it very soon," he said.

James Hall, a spokesman for a Cohocton group that has opposed the project, said Tuesday that the facility "is not producing electricity on any meaningful level."

Hall's group, Cohocton Wind Watch, fought the project in court repeatedly. He said he believes it will never be financially viable due to turbine problems and lack of sufficient year-round wind.

"We would hope there would be federal funding to take them down," he said.


First Wind was one of at least two clean-energy firms that state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo investigated last year after complaints about collusion between companies and improper dealings with local government officials.

Cuomo did not accuse the Massachusetts firm of any wrong-doing, and it was among the first to sign a voluntary "wind ethics energy code" that promised transparency and fair dealing.

The $74.6 million in awards for the two-part Cohocton project were among 12 clean-energy grants totaling $500 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds that were announced Tuesday. No other New York projects received funding.

The Cohocton grants are not meant to pay for new construction, but to support the continued use of the existing turbines, federal officials said. Lamontagne said the program was aimed to bolster an industry rocked by tight credit.

A First Wind project in Maine received a $40.4 million grant, and five projects owned by Iberdrola — the Spanish firm that purchased Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. last year — were given a total of $295 million.

First Wind has ties to the administration of President Barack Obama. A New York City hedge fund, D.E. Shaw & Co., is a major investor in First Wind, according to statements issued in recent years by First Wind. Lawrence H. Summers, who now heads Obama's National Economic Council, was a compensated managing director at D.E. Shaw before leaving late last year.

The firm's founder, David E. Shaw, is a member of Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Treasury Assistant Secretary of Management Dan Tangherlini said in response that "the awards are based strictly on a facilities' qualification for an existing tax credit program and will be made on a rolling basis."

SORR@DemocratandChronicle.com

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