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A county with its eye on the future -- Oswego officials pull out all the stops to lure manufacturer

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Oswego County in upstate New York is not only making a strong play to host a North American prototype of GE Wind's 3.6 MW turbine, officials are also keen to make the region a wind turbine manufacturing base and are even looking positively on plans for a small offshore wind farm in Lake Ontario. "It seems natural to diversify our power generating base with wind," says Michael Treadwell, Oswego County's chief economic development officer.

Oswego sits on the receiving end of some of the strongest winds in the north-eastern United States that sweep down from Hudson Bay and the central plains of Canada, then gather speed over Lake Ontario. The Oswego County Wind Power Initiative, a collaboration of political leaders, city and county administrative officials and the State University of New York, has been meeting regularly to work out strategies designed to ease the entry of the wind industry, which is generally seen in New York as having a terrific future.

As a first step toward that goal, GE Wind is being offered a test site location on the shoreline of Lake Ontario in Oswego County, right beside the 700 foot cooling tower of another generating facility. A European version of GE's flagship 3.6 MW turbine has been operating on the coast of Spain at 50 hertz. Now GE wants to test a 60 hertz version on the American side of the Atlantic. Several other sites are also being considered and the final decision should be made within months.

Meantime, UPC Wind Partners LLC, headed by Peter Gish and Brian Caffyn, has plans for the first offshore wind farm in the Great Lakes. "The potential for something to happen in Oswego is much higher in the near term than it is on Cape Cod," says UPC's Brian Braginton-Smith, referring to proposals for offshore wind exploitation off the coast of Massachusetts, which have run into stiff opposition (Windpower Monthly, February 2003).

Lots of wind

With a population of just 124,000, the region's people clearly welcome electricity production. Oswego hosts more than 5500 MW of power generation. The energy mix includes three nuclear power plants, a traditional oil-fired plant, hydropower, and gas turbines.

The winds of the Oswego region are already well understood because nuclear plant operators must monitor them closely as part of their emergency evacuation plan. Although UPC intends to put up a meteorological tower to gain more specific data, says Braginton-Smith, there is little doubt about their efficacy.

The Oswego wind initiative will not be limited to just the lake, says Treadwell. Farmers have already begun contacting his office, asking about the financial opportunities coming from allowing turbines on their pastureland. "We don't want to leave out any options," says Treadwell, "Because we certainly would like to be one of the leaders in the US in terms of being very pro-active." The county is particularly anxious, he says, to lure GE production facilities to its shoreline. They are particularly desirable because they would bring high paying, stable jobs to the region, he adds.

GE Wind has also been looking at Massachusetts for a Northeast manufacturing base. But because of the political opposition of Democratic Congressman William Delahunt and others to a 470 MW project off Cape Cod, those jobs may well go to New York State instead, says UPC's Braginton-Smith. GE is the technology partner for the Cape Cod project, proposed by Cape Wind Associates.

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