Monday, March 15, 2010

New York county opposes Lake Ontario wind farm proposal

Oswego County in upstate New York has passed a resolution in opposition to New York Power Authority’s (NYPA) request for proposals to develop a wind farm as large as 500megawatts offshore Lake Ontario.

The 20-4 vote by the Oswego County Legislature came after a two-hour session in which residents voiced their opposition and support for NYPA’s high-profile Great Lakes Offshore Wind Project (GLOW). No NYPA representatives were present

The state agency is looking to develop a wind farm in either Lake Ontario or Lake Erie as New York State borders both.

NYPA has set a 1 June deadline for proposals by developers to site between 40 and 170 turbines in water depth of 150 feet or less. It will select a developer by the end of this year and could sign project contracts by May 2011.

Given the project could be the first freshwater wind farm in North America, it will be subject to potentially lengthy regulatory and environmental reviews, something NYPA officials say they expect.

New York State’s turbulent politics may impact on the project. Governor David A. Paterson, who has been a strong, vocal proponent of renewable energy development including offshore wind, has been embroiled in allegations of improper conduct as a public official and announced he would not run for election in November.

Paterson, as lieutenant governor, replaced Elliott Spitzer in March 2008, who resigned amid a sex scandal. The downfall of Spitzer, who also promoted clean energy, did not slow state funding for solar energy development, offshore wind advocates point out.

Still, the state is reeling under the weight of fiscal deficits that may total $9bn in 2011, which may impact on New York’s ability to continue co-funding clean energy programs going forward. The legislature is under fire from media such as The New York Times and state residents for what has been described as its incompetent and lethargic response to the budget crisis.

NYPA is the largest state-owned, nonprofit power organization in the US and has its own revenue stream. Agency officials intend to press ahead with GLOW in part, to meet the state’s renewable portfolio standard that calls for obtaining 30% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015.

At the Oswego meeting, some state representatives and residents said their opposition to placing turbines in the lake was based on lack of information from NYPA about the project.

“The project has not been thought through,”Karl Williams, president of Henderson Harbor Area Chamber of Commerce, told the legislature.

Other critics said Oswego County would obtain little economic benefits as turbines would not be made there, while the turbine towers would have a negative impact on recreational boating, sailing and fishing. Another argument was that any wind farm would hurt property values.

The Oswego location has good wind resource. It is unclear if NYPA will now attempt to persuade Oswego officials to reconsider their opposition given opportunities exist in other counties.

Project proponents argued that Oswego had an excellent opportunity to take the lead in what could become a multi-billion energy sector.

No comments: