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Source: Dunkirk Observer

Get Listed event draws crowd to Dunkirk hotel

BY GIB SNYDER
OBSERVER CITY EDITOR

Posted: July 28, 2010
Originally Published: July 28, 2010

It was the place to be if you wanted to learn more about potential business and job opportunities associated with offshore wind projects being proposed by the New York Power Authority.

A near-capacity room of interested people were on hand Tuesday at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Dunkirk as NYPA President and Chief Executive Officer Richard M. Kessel, along with his staff and members of other agencies, talked about the project and its potential impact. Registration with NYPA, its goals for the project and a question and answer session were part of the presentation in Dunkirk, similar to other GLOW events held in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse.

Prior to the Get Listed presentation, officials held a press conference to provide information about the offshore wind projects, with Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards introducing Kessel.

"We're really honored and fortunate to have one of the leading voices and leading individuals in helping develop opportunities for all of New York state and really open the door for growth and development through the northeast United States," Edwards said of Kessel.

" ... What you're offering here today is chances for economic development. ... It's not only economic development but it's green energy opportunities development. ... This is yet another opportunity, and a big one, for our local business folks to learn from the experts and find ways to plug right into opportunities to grow your business."

Kessel outlined the history of the project, saying it was announced on April 22, 2009. Interest in the project resulted in NYPA issuing a request for proposals and he said five bids were received June 1 and are being evaluated by NYPA staff members. The proposed project would erect a 120 to 500 megawatt wind project offshore in Lake Erie and, or, Lake Ontario.

Kessel said three Es, energy, environmental and employment were key parts of to the project. He added that the project would create thousands of jobs.

"In the RFP we indicated very clearly that if you come in with a proposal that highlights local economic development and using local labor and manufacturing, you have the best chance to win the project at the end if you show us you're going to use local development," Kessel explained. "So from every perspective this is a win for Dunkirk, a win for Chautauqua, a win for Erie and Niagara, a win for western New York. Let's be the first because there are other lake-side states that want to do this. Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan are all looking at doing this project, but they're watching New York first.

"I'm telling you, if we get into the water first the manufacturers for this project is going to spread to those other projects as they go in. This is chance for New York to come first."

Other press conference speakers included Tom Kucharski, president and CEO of the Buffalo-Niagara Enterprise; Christina Orsi, regional director with the Empire State Development Corp.; Brian Smith, Western New York Program Director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment and Bill Daly, Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency Director and Chief Executive Officer.

It was Daly who put the project in a larger light, saying America is the Saudi Arabia of wind.

"Think about how Saudi Arabia and the emirates have affected your life with fossil fuel, how would you like us to become that, literally?" he asked. "The problem is some of this is in north and south Dakota. There's no people, no places to plug the cord in to deliver power to the rest of us. The fifteenth best area in the United States for wind is the state of New York.

"We've got to take advantage of this spectacular resource. Chautauqua County is blessed. We have the escarpment up off the coast. We've got several projects right now with commercial wind on land and now we have this opportunity that NYPA has presented. Our goal is to make sure the people in Chautauqua County are the people with the jobs and our manufacturers are the parts makers, our construction group ... all the things that will be necessary."

Daly added that it could be a three-year process providing an economic benefit.

Kessel was asked about the timeline for the project.

"We will likely choose a developer at the end of this year or the first quarter of next year. If all goes well we choose a developer or several developers. It could be one site, it could be several sites," he replied. "The permitting process would then begin and I would expect the permitting process to take 12 to 18 months. Assuming we get the permit, you might begin to see construction by the 2012, 2013 area and hopefully, the project could be up and running by the summer of 2015, which isn't that far away."

Kessel added that NYPA's role was not only to lead the project but to purchase the power "so that the developer or developers can get their financing to build the project."

Edwards said different factors such as shipping lanes, the subsurface of the lake floor and the capacity to transmit electricity, come into play as far as selecting lake sites.

"It's generally off this northern part of Chautauqua County where they appear, in this early stage, to be some of the best locations," Edwards stated. "Granted there are locations up in Erie County and beyond. My focus has been, I want Chautauqua County. If there's going to be growth and development opportunities I want Chautauqua County in it early so we can be involved in the process so when the right decisions are made and those will be determined over the next 18 months or so. ... I want to have Chautauqua County there so we can benefit from that.

"The lake is owned by the state and where these things are going to be placed ... is going to be dictated almost exclusively by the state. I want Chautauqua County employers, Chautauqua County employees, Chautauqua County itself, invested where we can."

For Kessel, there is one basic in the equation, offshore wind power is coming to the Great Lakes.

"The question is do we want to be first?" he asked. "Do we want to create the jobs first, that's the question. I think the answer is yes."

For more information on the GLOW program or offshore windpower, go to www.nypa.gov.