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North Country wind- farm project may use fewer, larger turbines

By Journal Staff


DENMARK, N.Y. — The company behind the planned Copenhagen Wind Farm in northern New York, Brooklyn–based OwnEnergy, is looking to upgrade the model of turbine to be used at the site to a newer, higher-capacity design. That would lower the number of turbines needed to maintain the farm’s 80-megawatt capacity to 40 turbines, down from 47.


The wind-farm project, which would ideally start with construction in late April or early May 2016, in the town of Denmark in Lewis County, has been under development since 2011, according to James Damon, development manager at OwnEnergy.


The company wants to have the farm fully operational before the end of 2016, he says.


It is normal for development of a wind farm to take several years before construction, according to Damon, who states that this project has actually moved along faster than the average wind farm in New York.


“There are projects that were started 10, 12 years ago that are still in development,” he says.


Damon brought the proposed changes to Denmark’s planning board at a special meeting held June 23. The planning board, as the lead agency for the project, needs to approve the changes for them to be enacted. It will vote on whether to OK the changes at a meeting later this summer.


Damon says OwnEnergy wants to change the turbine model because it would work better for that area, adding that there are many factors that dictate the type of turbine, such as different wind classes. Not all sites are equal, he says. New York doesn’t have the same abundance of wind as areas like the Great Plains.


Damon says the total cost of the project will be more than $100 million, declining to give a specific estimate. He also declines to say how OwnEnergy is funding the project.


The 2.0-megawatt turbine OwnEnergy would like to use is manufactured by General Electric. The tower stands 94 meters (308 feet) tall, with a rotor diameter of 116 meters (380 feet), according to Damon.


One megawatt can power roughly 300 to 350 homes, he says, meaning when the farm operates at peak production, it could theoretically power around 25,000 homes.


It is called the Copenhagen Wind Farm because most of the land on which it would be built — about 9,000 acres — falls inside the village of Copenhagen within the town, according to Damon.


The 9,000-acre plot is comprised entirely of privately owned parcels, says Damon. OwnEnergy has obtained long-term lease agreements and easement agreements from all property owners. Damon declines to say how many different properties the wind farm will encompass.


Energy harvested at the farm will be transported through a feeder line, almost nine miles long, to a switchyard that OwnEnergy plans to build two towns over in Rutland, which is in Jefferson County, says Damon.


OwnEnergy intends to purchase land adjacent to the existing Black River-Lighthouse Hill transmission line in Rutland (which it will tap into) and build the switchyard. It will then sell the property to National Grid, says Damon.


The feeder line will pass through the town of Champion, which is between Rutland and Denmark. Damon says OwnEnergy is currently working on attaining a special-use permit from the town in order to erect the line. The company hopes to have the permit by September, he adds.


OwnEnergy was approved for the federal Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit, the value of which will be determined by how much energy the farm sells each year. Damon says the tax credit has a duration of 20 years, with no limit on how much energy for which the farm can receive a tax credit.


In order for the Copenhagen Wind Farm to be eligible, OwnEnergy excavated five holes in December 2014 — where turbines will eventually be assembled — before the tax credit expired at the end of that year, says Damon. To hold onto the tax credit, the wind farm needs to be operational before the end of 2016, he adds.


The company is also working on forging a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement with the Lewis County Industrial Development Agency (LCIDA) for the land on which the farm and the feeder line would be built.


Paul Saliterman, development director with OwnEnergy, says the company has a memorandum of understanding with LCIDA regarding the terms of the PILOT, which would have a 20-year duration. Saliterman declined to give a more detailed account of the PILOT terms.


OwnEnergy chose the area in the town of Denmark because it has a good wind resource, which Damon says means it’s windy enough to make the farm economical.


Also, he says, it’s no accident that the Maple Ridge Wind Farm, New York’s largest wind farm, is only a few miles away. “New York is not always the most accepting of these projects,” says Damon, so the fact that Maple Ridge is nearby means the community has already lived with a wind farm and knows it isn’t a big deal, he adds.


The town and the community have been great throughout the process, according to Damon. “They get that this project would be meaningful for them,” he says.


OwnEnergy was founded in 2007 by Jacob Susman, who has been in the renewable-energy field since 1999, according to the company website.


Damon says the business has 20 employees, all of whom work full time. He declined to disclose the company’s revenue for last year.            


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