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United States

Merchant plant sells power and credits -- Ground breaking start to 5000 MW potential in New York state

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New York state's first wind plant is ground breaking in more ways than one. Not only is the 11.5 MW merchant plant in Madison County the first of several utility scale wind farms which will be selling electricity into the grid, it is also selling separate emissions offset certificates via the web, apparently to buyers anywhere.

The offsets are available from the plant's owner-developer, California power company PG&E, through the Pure Wind web site www.purewind.net, as well as privately. Each certificate, which represents the environmental value of emissions-free electricity from 1 MW of wind, costs $40. An entity wanting to reduce its emissions can do so by purchasing such credits.

The owner-developer of the project, part of the same group that owns the investor-owned utility PG&E in northern California, inaugurated the seven 1.65 MW Vestas turbines on September 15. The turbine model is the largest in use in America.

PG&E describes the project as a commercial milestone. "Aside from offering critical additional capacity to the New York state power market, we're pioneering a new approach to linking customers to new, renewable energy facilities," says PG&E's Chris Iribe. The seven-turbine plant will sell wind power into the US's northeast power grid through the New York State Electric & Gas Transmission System and the New York Independent System Operator.

It is not immediately clear how PG&E will calculate the value of the green derivatives, although it says that audits will verify the calculation. It is clear, however, that much remains to be pinned down. According to PG&E, the certificates "correspond to the environmental attributes associated with equivalent amounts of wind generated electricity delivered to the New York power pool."

Two more building

PG&E suggests that the avoided emissions may be compared to the pollution emitted by the average of all New York State power generation facilities. On this basis, total electricity output for the Madison wind power facility in an average year will avoid 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide, 65 tons of sulphur dioxide, and 19 tons of nitrogen oxide, it concludes.

Two other wind farms are also under way in the Empire State. Almost completed as of mid September was a $7.5 million 6.6 MW wind plant in Wyoming County -- ten 660 kW Vestas machines developed by Western New York Wind Corp, a company led by Vestas North American sales director Phillip Andres. Construction of a third wind farm, of 12 MW capacity and developed by US developer Atlantic Renewable Energy Corp, is just getting under way in Madison County.

Another two wind plants, developed by Atlantic Renewable Energy and totalling 80 MW are also on the books in New York. The state has more wind generating potential than California, which has 1600 MW of installed capacity, says David Wooley of Wind Power New York, part of the American Wind Energy Association. "We could easily see 5000 MW," he says.

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