ELLENBURG - The wind will rage on, but for now, the potential energy it could produce will go untapped.
Horizon Wind Energy, the Houston, Tx.-based firm behind the proposal of a wind farm in the towns of Ellenburg and Clinton, has delayed construction for the multi-million dollar project. However, according to project manager Gary S. Davidson, plans for the Marble River Wind Farm development are still under way.
"We had, at one point, thought we could begin construction as early as this year, but have since taken a look and decided to not build, not only this year, but in 2009 either," said Davidson. "We're still working, still doing our diligence. There's still some engineering work to be done, basically getting ready for construction, but it's just not going to happen in 2009."
"It's not, in any way, an indication of backing away from the project," affirmed Davidson.
The principle issues behind the slowdown, said Davidson, include the initial delay in the project receiving the proper permits for construction. The majority of permits have since been obtained, said Davidson, though the corporation is still working to receive one final permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Other factors are also responsible, he added, such as the decline in wholesale power rates in New York State and a higher estimated return on investments in other developments in Oklahoma, Iowa, Oregon and Minnesota.
"The thought was concentrating, as far as construction goes, on some of the projects where the economics are a little more attractive in the short run," said Davidson. "As a development team, we would have loved to have seen the project built, but when you look across the country and where we're developing other projects, the economics kind of pushed us to go to where the returns for those projects are greater."
Though shovels won't be in the ground in the foreseeable future, there is much "behind-the-scenes work" to be done, Davidson added.
"There's not going to be a flurry of construction trucks up in the project area, but there's definitely work folks here in Albany and down in Houston are still focused on, getting ready for when the time is right to build it," he said.
Davidson stated though upgrades to the state's outdated energy transmission systems would be favorable for developments like Marble River, they are not necessary as has been reported in other media.
"It was a little bit mischaracterized in that Marble River is not waiting on a new transmission system," said Davidson. "That project could be built with the existing transmission lines, but if we want to develop all the potential in the North Country and elsewhere in the state, then we need to take a look at investing in the transmission system."
"I think, in general, the issue is more economic than anything else," Davidson continued. "It's expensive to build, expensive to develop in New York. Within just the past six months, the price of power in New York has just dropped and I think that's a temporary thing."
According to information provided by Horizon Wind Energy, Marble River Wind Farm will consist of approximately 95 wind towers that will produce up to 200 megawatts of electricity a year, enough to power up to 65,000 average New York homes. The energy produced will be sold by contracts into wholesale markets as well as spot markets administrated by the New York Independent System Operator or adjacent control areas, a fact sheet stated.
In the end, Marble River will be "a pretty sizable project," said Davidson, expected to be the second-largest of its kind in New York.
The project benefits for the towns of Ellenburg and Clinton could amount to more than $500,000 each due to "host community agreements" Horizon has arranged with the municipalities, said Davidson. Once the project is up and running, the corporation will pay $3,000 per megawatt per year for the energy produced. Separately, the corporation has a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, agreement with Clinton County that will annually pay $5,000 per megawatt. Those revenues would be divided among the county, school districts and towns.