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New York fast tracks wind

The New York State renewable energy standard, approved by the Public Service Commission (PSC) in November is lighting a fire under wind development in the state, which now has more than 800 MW in the works. Last month the New York State Electricity Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) selected two wind facilities and three small hydroelectric projects to meet the first phase of the 25% by 2013 target.

NYSERDA issued a fast-track request for proposals last year for renewable energy projects to be online by December 31. The five projects selected will be providing 697,832 MWh in the first year.

Among the winning wind proposals is the Flat Rock project, being built by Zilkha Renewable Energy and partner Atlantic Renewable Energy. Construction of the 240 MW first phase is expected to start in the spring on 12,000 acres (4860 hectares) atop Tug Hill in north central New York in Lewis County. Engineering, final layout and other preconstruction activities are underway as the company waits for the short construction season to begin, says Zilkha's Michael Skelly. The final size of Flat Rock is expected to be 300 MW.

The second wind project is Community Energy's 7.5 MW Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm in New Jersey. The five GE 1.5 MW wind turbines are to be built at a wastewater treatment facility near Atlantic City.

The first projects had originally been scheduled to become operational in 2006, but fast-tracking the program allows projects to begin producing electricity in 2005, which enables developers to take advantage of wind's federal production tax credit, set to expire at the end of this year. The acceleration is intended to help developers lower their development costs so those savings can benefit consumers, says the Public Service Commission's John Sweeney. NYSERDA is the renewables arm of the PSC.

There are a slate of other projects in the New York pipeline, including a 75 MW wind plant proposed by UPC Wind Partners and Global Winds Harvest Inc, a 40.5 MW site in Otsego County, a 51 MW project proposed by Jasper Energy, and 30-50 MW proposal by York Windpower to be built near Ripley.

A problem may be on the horizon, however. The town of Ellenburg, worried that development might be moving too fast, has put a moratorium on construction in its jurisdiction while it studies the environmental and economic impact of installing wind turbines on private lands. Zilkha Renewable Energy is considering a project in the area, but no specific plans have been developed, says Skelly. "The town just wants to think about this a little bit and we're not in a huge hurry," says Skelly. "We don't see it affecting our schedule."

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