New York wind energy news

Ecogen – Town of Prattsburgh dispute on hold

Trial court issues restraining order in case concerning 16-turbine project. (Steuben Courier, 12/9) Ecogen previously sued Town of Italy after the Town enacted a moratorium. Municipal developments in each town affect the same wind power project.

Long Island – New York City Offshore Wind Collaborative to Pursue Ocean Floor/Wildlife Surveys, Expects to Issue RFP Spring 2010

The Long Island-NYC Offshore Wind Collaborative, with designs on a 700 MW offshore project, announced that it will begin “pre-development activities,” such as desktop studies of the ocean’s wind, wave and wildlife environment, as part of an effort to develop what may be the country’s largest offshore wind farm proposal. Per the press release:

Approximately 30 wind developers and firms responded to the Collaborative’s (www.linycoffshorewind.com) Request for Information (RFI) issued on July 1, signaling substantial interest in developing a wind farm in the Atlantic Ocean, 13 nautical miles off the south shore of the Rockaway Peninsula.

The Collaborative expects to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) in the Spring of 2010. The RFP will seek proposals from private development firms to build the project and enter into agreements to sell the clean energy it produces. The wind project would likely be designed for 350 megawatts (MW) of generation, with the ability to expand up to 700 MW… (LIPA, 12/9)

Summary of Ecogen v. Town of Italy 2006 wind zoning case

While somewhat dated, this case, Ecogen LLC v. Town of Italy, 438 F. Supp. 2d 149 (W.D.N.Y. Jul. 2006),  is worth mentioning at least because it is a New York state case in federal district court (these are rare) and offers some guidance on the ins and outs of wind zoning in New York towns, particularly where wind projects are contentious.

Ecogen LLC, interested since 2001 in developing a wind project in and around the Town of Italy (Yates County), filed suit to obtain relief from a wind energy (and related) development moratorium enacted in 2004 in the Town of Italy (Yates County) which was preventing Ecogen from constructing a substation in the town. The substation was for turbines to be constructed in Italy and neighboring Prattsburgh. The court indicated that while Prattsburgh was supportive of the project, Italy extended the six-month moratorium multiple times. The moratorium allowed a “hardship” exception, to be granted only after review of an application for such exception. Ecogen did not apply for such exception.

Ecogen claimed six causes of action: deprivation of due process; unconstitutionality of the moratorium; violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; the seeking of injunctive relief; and two state law claims. The town moved to dismiss, stating that Ecogen had failed to state a claim, in part because it failed, by not seeking a hardship exception, to obtain a final decision from the town concerning the application of the moratorium to the proposal to build a substation.

The court looked to whether the moratorium “on its face” was deficient or whether “as applied” to Ecogen it was. Regarding the facial challenge, the court indicated that to prevail Ecogen would need to show that the moratorium, at least to the extent it prevented construction of the substation, bore no rational relationship to any legitimate government purpose. The court found no valid claim that the moratorium was invalid on its face, because, under federal law, it was not “so arbitrary or irrational as to violate [Ecogen’s] substantive due process rights.” The court declined to apply state law standards advocated by Ecogen.

While Ecogen insisted that it was not challenging the moratorium as applied to Ecogen, the court nevertheless took it upon itself to consider such a claim. It found such a claim “not ripe for review.” Ecogen had argued that should the court so construe its claims, that the claim was ripe, because applying for the hardship exception would have been futile. The court disagreed. While a plaintiff need not “jump through a series of hoops, the last of which it is certain to find obstructed by a brick wall,” the court said there did need to be evidence that the town had no discretion to grant the exception, or had “dug in its heels and made clear” that it would not grant the exception. The doubtfulness of the grant of an exception, or the town’s hostility to the project was not enough. The court left for another day what an adequate showing of futility would be. (Considering what was happening here, one wonders how much heel digging is necessary to make such a showing before this court.)

The court found the length of the moratorium (two years running) needed to draft wind regulations “curious and suspicious”, but did not order the end of the moratorium, contingent however upon the town developing a comprehensive plan within ninety days of the court’s order or rendering a decision on a hardship exception application (if filed) within ninety days of filing.

Relatively recent press reports indicate that the town subsequently drafted a comprehensive plan that was relatively anti-wind development. Per the reports, Ecogen sued again, but agreed to put that lawsuit on hold provided the town consider incentive zoning, which would permit turbines provided the developer make certain payments.

A subsequent decision in the case, 461 F.Supp. 2d 100 (Nov. 2006) denied attorney’s fees to the defendant town.

Tip of the blade to Adam Kingsley, a land use attorney in the Chicago office of Holland + Knight, for bringing the case to our attention.

Wind power New York: NYISO, Cape Vincent, Italy

Cape Vincent wind zoning parameters determined

Watertown Daily times (9/27) reports on zoning requirements in the Town of Cape Vincent (Jefferson County):

The boundary for the wind turbine overlay district is set tentatively as Route 6 to the west and the riverfront district to the north. The town’s wind zoning amendment committee agreed to those boundaries at its meeting Thursday afternoon.

Yates County approves Town of Italy wind incentives

From the Finger Lakes Times (9/26)

The Yates County Planning Board approved proposed incentive zoning amendments to the Town of Italy’s comprehensive plan that would make way for wind energy development. Incentive zoning refers to designated areas in the town where wind turbines would be allowed and developers eligible for financial incentives…

New York State wind power expands

Schenectady Daily Gazette (9/28) reports on expansion of wind industry in New York:

Wind power will soon become a bigger part of the state’s energy picture. In September, there were over 700 megawatts of wind generating capacity in commercial operation in New York. By next summer, wind capacity is expected to grow to more than 1,200 megawatts, while proposed projects would add another 6,500 megawatts of wind capacity by 2011. The New York Independent System Operator is already preparing for the increase in wind power.

Newsday opinion piece (9/28) supporting wind power in New York state

Wind energy update in New York and offshore

Cattaraugus County examines alternative energy tax issue

Per the Buffalo News (9/12)

Cattaraugus County legislators agreed Wednesday to go ahead with a Sept. 23 public hearing, but some said they’re still confused by a proposed local law governing local taxing authority for alternative energy systems.

Town of Italy (Yates County) reviews wind zoning

Per the Daily Messenger and MPNNow.com (9/14):

…The board is considering two amendments. If approved, the town would change the comprehensive plan and current zoning restrictions to allow for industrial wind turbines. Wind development has been on the table in Italy for seven years – since affiliates of Ecogen first expressed interest and began buying and leasing land for potential development.

Early on, the board opposed wind development and placed a moratorium on future projects. Ecogen sued, but the town won. However, the court advised the town to adopt an official stance on wind development, said MacKenzie. That led to a strong anti-turbine opinion in the town’s comprehensive plan. But Ecogen sued again, said MacKenzie.

Watertown Daily Times (9/14) editorial: New York State needs to provide wind project oversight

…There should be uniform standards for siting and development of wind turbines. People making decisions that will impact communities for many years should be above any allegations of conflicting interests.

The state needs to assume a greater oversight role in the many aspects of wind power development. This must be done soon, as wind projects are being implemented and pondered throughout upstate. The state should take some leadership here.

2007 Academic Study: Overwhelming support for Lewis County wind development

File this with the oldies but goodies. From an October 2007 study by the Center for Community Studies at Jefferson Community College:

  • Over 72% of those surveyed “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that “The development of the Maple Ridge Wind Farm has had a positive effect on Lewis County.” The largest group in disagreement, in the aggregate more than 27%, were those aged 18-29.
  • Over 76% of those surveyed “strongly” or “somewhat” support the expansion of windfarms in Lewis County, with support very similar across gender and age groups.

The study was released in March 2008.

Delaware’s offshore project

New York Times magazine (9/14) article on the Bluewater Wind project off the coast of Rehoboth beach in Delaware.

“The moment I read that paper,” the wind entrepreneur Peter Mandelstam recalled, “I knew in my gut where my next wind project would be.”…