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Source: Albany Times Union

Great expectations for Great Lakes


Posted: December 2, 2009
Originally Published: December 2, 2009

ALBANY -- The possible transformation of the Great Lakes into a major source of wind-generated electricity began Tuesday, when New York became the first state to open its share of the lakes to offers by private wind developers.

During a news conference on the shore of Lake Erie near Buffalo, Gov. David Paterson and other officials unveiled plans for the state to reach 20-year agreements with owners of selected projects by December 2010. Proposals would be due at the state Power Authority by June 2010.

"The development of a wind energy project in the Great Lakes off the shores of New York will bring us another step towards my goal to meet 30 percent of the State's electricity needs from renewable resources by 2015, help demonstrate the significantly untapped potential of offshore wind, and bring new clean energy jobs to western New York," the governor said.

The state is asking for proposals to develop offshore wind power projects for Lake Ontario and Lake Erie in the range of 120 to 500 megawatts. An average coal-fired power plant, by comparison, is about 700 megawatts. The lakes are seen as one of the state's most reliable sources of electricity generated by wind, which blows uninterrupted primarily from west to east.

The plan did not set any limit on the number of projects that could be approved. Projects more likely to be selected will be those that produce long-term economic benefits for the region, are likely to be running by 2015, will promote in-state manufacturing of wind generation components, and have firm pricing for the electricity, which will be purchased by the Power Authority.

Developers would be responsible for paying all project costs needed to get electricity to an onshore substation, while the state would bear expenses of any additional transmission lines to deliver power to the statewide grid. Such costs have been estimated to run to $100 million, according to Power Authority spokeswoman Connie Cullen.

Both utilities and environmental groups appeared to welcome the effort.

Said Brian Smith, a regional program director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment, "Our wind-rich Great Lakes can soon provide us with renewable energy that will help combat climate change, drive economic development and promote energy independence."

Tom King, president of National Grid, said wind and other renewable energies will "help New York address climate change issues at home and around the globe."

Potential developers must submit plans that describe possible impacts on fish, birds and bats, as well as on the view and on recreation. The plan does not specify how close a wind turbine could be to the shoreline.

A copy of the plan can be found at http://www.nypa.gov/NYPAwindpower/rfp.html

Brian Nearing can be reached at 454-5094 or by email at bnearing@timesunion.com.