In a cross marketing deal, Cherry Valley residents who select NYSEG Solutions as their electricity supplier will get up to 5800 kWh a year without charge, enough to cover a year's consumption for a typical New York home. The agreement will be binding for 20 years, the expected lifespan of the wind plant.
Reunion Power's David Little says the company can afford to be generous because Cherry Valley is small. The benefit will go to about 600 homes, who must still pay delivery charges to National Grid and other associated taxes. Under Reunion's arrangement with NYSEG, each resident will receive a monthly compensation on their bill of around $40, paid by NYSEG via a power sales arrangement with Reunion. Over the 20 year life of the wind plant, the compensation payments will amount to $5.7 million, if the town and the compensation stay the same size. Reunion's wind farm will supply far more power to NYSEG than needed in Cherry Valley.
No residents in the town use NYSEG as yet, but Little expects that to change if the project goes through. The 24 turbines slated for the windy site are far from being chosen but project capacity will be under 70 MW.
The company freely admits the plan is an unabashed ploy to persuade local residents to support a wind plant in their community. The US Northeast has become a notoriously difficult region in which to develop wind power. "We definitely have to be creative," says Little. "In the Northeast there are a lot of residents. This is not Wyoming with 20,000-acre ranches. Here the projects have to co-exist."
The company was intent on providing a benefit -- in addition to the usual local economic incentives associated with wind farm development -- that could be felt by all residents. "It's an unprecedented offer," says the company's Marion Trieste. "It's for all the locals living within the town of Cherry valley and it's a benefit that will be realised by all individuals in the area of the proposed site."
It is a case of necessity trumping altruism. "We're in horrible shape up here," says Trieste. "The public is just not ready for wind in the Northeast as in other parts of the country. Local people for the most part want it, but there's a small and vocal minority that's very against it."
The plan relies on the successful development, permitting and construction of the project. But a spanner may have been thrown into the works last month. An ordinance passed by the town now increases the buffer zones and the number of landowner project participants, says Little. "It's going to make it tough for us to move forward," he adds, referring to his company and it partner, Edison Mission Energy. "At this point we've got to huddle on this. I'm not saying we're done but the ordinance is really serious. We are at a critical juncture here."
Reunion owns and manages other projects. It has two operational plants in the Midwest: a 107 MW facility in Benton Minnesota and an 80.25 MW plant in Alta, Iowa. The proposed Cherry Valley plant is the most mature of the company's developments in the Northeast, where it is also proposing a smaller 27 MW plant in Warren County, New York.