Recent New York wind energy developments

From recent media reports:

Noble Environmental Power said to make three NY wind farms operational. CleanTechnica.com, 1/30

Wind fills GE’s sails in Schenectady (sorry about the pun; there are only so many available). Albany Times Union 2/7

State officials test 1.5kw turbine atop Albany’s tallest buildingTimes Herald-Record, 2/2; See also North Country Gazette, 2/4

Chemung County land owners being visited by wind developers. Star-Gazette, 2/1

Genessee Community College to host community wind forum on February 18:

Genesee Community College is pleased to host a free Community Wind Forum on February 18 from 12:00 until 2:00 p.m. at the Batavia campus in room T102. The forum will be presented by Pace Energy and Climate Center, a program of Pace University. The forum will include a basic introduction to wind energy; a discussion of the Community wind model, including community organizing and project financing and ownership models; and a question and discussion period. The Community Wind Forum is free and community members, especially planners, municipal officials, and students are encouraged to attend. Genessee.edu, 2/2

Town of Orleans wind committee examines sound standards. Watertown Daily Times, 2/8

In neighboring Vermont, state’s highest court permits 16-turbine Sheffield wind project to proceed by upholding Vermont Public Service Board issuance of a certificate of public good (CPG) to UPC Vermont Wind, LLC.. Timesargus.com, 2/7. The decision is here.

Attorney General establishes wind company code of conduct

The following press release was issued today by the New York State Office of the Attorney General. It is a response to Attorney General Cuomo’s investigation, launched this past summer, into allegations of improper behavior with respect to Noble Environmental Power’s and First Wind’s efforts to site projects in the state.

The code itself was not available at the time of posting. At a press conference today, the Attorney General made clear that this does not conclude the Attorney General’s investigation. [Update: To clarify, subscription to the code is voluntary, not mandatory.]

The code and creation of a Task Force highlight, however, the degree of care both towns and developer alike must place on a transparent, ethical siting process.

ATTORNEY GENERAL CUOMO ESTABLISHES CODE OF CONDUCT FOR WIND ENERGY COMPANIES OPERATING IN NEW YORK

Noble Environmental Power and First Wind first to sign Wind Industry Ethics Code

New Task Force to monitor and ensure compliance includes: District Attorneys Gerald Stout, Michael Green, and Derek Champagne, Executive Director of the NYS Association of Counties Stephen Acquario, Executive Director of the NYS Association of Towns G. Jeffrey Haber, and NYPIRG’s Legislative Director Blair Horner

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 30, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a new Wind Industry Ethics Code that establishes guidelines to facilitate the development of alternative energy in New York while assuring the public the wind power industry is acting properly and within the law. The Code calls for new oversight through a multi-agency Task Force, and establishes unprecedented transparency that will deter any improper relationships between wind development companies and local government officials.

The first companies to sign the Attorney General’s Wind Industry Ethics Code are Essex, Connecticut-based Noble Environmental Power, LLC and Newton, Massachusetts-based First Wind (formerly known as UPC Wind). Both companies currently operate wind farms in New York and have several others in development.

“Wind power is an exciting industry for the state that will be a cornerstone of our energy future. But it is important to make sure that this alternative energy sector develops in a way that maintains the public’s confidence, and that is what this new Code of Conduct does,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “I commend Noble and First Wind for taking the lead by adopting this Code, and we fully expect other companies that want to develop wind farms in New York to follow suit.”

The Wind Industry Ethics Code is a result of the Attorney General’s investigation into, among other things, whether companies developing wind farms improperly sought land-use agreements with citizens and public officials, and whether improper benefits were given to public officials to influence their official actions relating to wind farm development. Both Noble and First Wind fully cooperated in the inquiry and their assistance was instrumental in developing the Code of Conduct that is being announced today.

The Attorney General’s Wind Industry Ethics Code prohibits conflicts of interest between municipal officials and wind companies and establishes vast new public disclosure requirements. The Code:

  • Bans wind companies from hiring municipal employees or their relatives, giving gifts of more than $10 during a one-year period, or providing any other form of compensation that is contingent on any action before a municipal agency
  • Prevents wind companies from soliciting, using, or knowingly receiving confidential information acquired by a municipal officer in the course of his or her officials duties
  • Requires wind companies to establish and maintain a public Web site to disclose the names of all municipal officers or their relatives who have a financial stake in wind farm development
  • Requires wind companies to submit in writing to the municipal clerk for public inspection and to publish in the local newspaper the nature and scope of the municipal officer’s financial interest
  • Mandates that all wind easements and leases be in writing and filed with the County Clerk
  • Dictates that within thirty days of signing the Wind Industry Ethics Code, companies must conduct a seminar for employees about identifying and preventing conflicts of interest when working with municipal employees

Attorney General Cuomo is also establishing a new Task Force that will monitor wind companies to ensure they are in compliance with the Code of Conduct. Members of the Task Force will include: a representative from the Office of the Attorney General, Franklin County District Attorney Derek P. Champagne, Monroe County District Attorney Michael C. Green, Wyoming County District Attorney Gerald Stout, Executive Director of the New York State Association of Counties Stephen Acquario, Executive Director of the New York State Association of Towns G. Jeffrey Haber, and New York Public Interest Research Group Legislative Director Blair Horner.

The New York State Energy Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) estimates that wind power has the potential to provide 20 percent of the state’s electricity demand and a 2005 report by the state Comptroller’s Office estimates the alternative energy industry could add 43,000 jobs in New York by 2013.

Noble Environmental Power, LLC, has three active wind farms in New York; the Noble Clinton Windpark and Noble Ellenberg Windpark in Clinton County, and the Noble Bliss Windpark in Wyoming County. Other possible future locations include Allegany, Chautauqua, Clinton, Franklin, and Wyoming Counties.

First Wind has one operational wind farm in New York, the Steel Winds wind farm in Erie County. Possible future locations include Steuben and Chautauqua Counties.

Franklin County District Attorney Derek P. Champagne said, “This common sense approach by Attorney General Cuomo will help ensure the promise of clean, renewable energy is not tainted by shady deals and improper relationships between wind power companies and local government officials. I look forward to taking part in the new task force and applaud the Attorney General for his leadership on this important issue.”

Wyoming County District Attorney Gerald Stout said, “Wind power not only provides us with clean, renewable energy, it can also serve as an economic engine for New York. Attorney General Cuomo’s Code of Conduct and the introduction of the new task force are both important steps in making sure corrupt influences do not put this growing industry in peril.”

Monroe County District Attorney Michael C. Green said, “I commend Attorney General Cuomo for establishing this new Code of Conduct for the wind-power industry. When properly developed, wind power can and should play a vital role in our state’s energy future, but it cannot happen in a way that erodes public confidence with allegations of self-dealing and corruption. The Attorney General’s new code of conduct and task force will ensure that wind companies stay in compliance without unduly burdening the companies’ ability to do business in New York.”

Senator George Maziarz, Chair of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee said, “Attorney General Cuomo has again proven that the best way to tackle challenging issues is through cooperation at all levels of government. By working together we can ensure that this promising industry will continue to flourish in New York.”

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, Chair of the Assembly Energy Committee said, “Wind power will play an important role in achieving energy independence through a growing reliance on clean, renewable resources. In order to reach that goal effectively, it is essential that all parties involved play by the rules and adhere to the highest standards of ethics. I applaud Attorney General Cuomo for his efforts on this issue.”

New York State Association of Counties Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario said, “Local governments have taken the lead in siting wind energy generating facilities, which provide essential renewable energy into the electrical grid. Simultaneously, county ethics boards continue to take their role in policing conflicts of interest pertaining to the siting of wind power very seriously. Attorney General Cuomo’s Code of Conduct is an important step in helping make sure public confidence remains strong as this burgeoning industry develops across our counties.”

Executive Director of the New York State Association of Towns G. Jeffrey Haber said, “This is a new rapidly growing industry with exciting potential – as well as new challenges – for all of us. Attorney General Cuomo, working with all interested parties, has taken a strong leadership role in developing guidelines to help us all as the industry develops and evolves across New York state.”

Blair Horner, Legislative Director of the New York Public Interest Research Group said, “Good ethics requirements helps build a better business climate. Companies that play by the rules should never be put at a competitive disadvantage. And the public should know that private-public deals are made in the public’s best interest. This Code will help ensure that this important industry grows and prospers in New York.”

Walter Q. Howard, President and Chief Executive Officer of Noble Environmental Power said, “Noble has always been fully committed to the ethical and transparent development of renewable resources, and has supported the work of the Attorney General and his staff in the development of the new Wind Industry Ethics Code. We are gratified that going forward there will be clear guidelines with respect to ethical behavior and conflict of interest, and are committed to continuing to operate in conformity with the principles laid out today in this Code.”

Paul Gaynor, President and Chief Executive Officer of First Wind said, “We are pleased to have cooperated with the Office of the New York Attorney General in its efforts to bring clarity to the wind industry in New York State. We have always held ourselves to high standards, and we hope that other firms will join us in signing on to this Code of Conduct. We believe it is good for us, good for the industry and good for New York.”

Any complaints about wind development companies should be sent to the newly created Task Force by e-mailing them to WindTaskForce@oag.state.ny.us. Complaints about other industries or local officials should be made to the Office of the Attorney General by e-mailing them to public.integrity@oag.state.ny.us or by calling 1-800-428-9072.

The matter is being handled by Special Deputy Attorney General Ellen Nachtigall Biben, who oversees the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau, Deputy Bureau Chief Monica Stamm, Assistant Attorneys General Andrew Heffner and Robert Vawter, and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Robin L. Baker.

[Added 10/31] New reports (and an editorial) on the new wind ethics code include:

Noble Environmental Power targets 23M+ shares in IPO

Noble Environmental Power, Inc. has filed a revised preliminary prospectus in which it indicates that it intends to sell in its initial public offering (IPO) up to 23,437,500 shares, and that it also has granted its underwriters (LEHMAN BROTHERS, JPMORGAN, CREDIT SUISSE, and CITI) a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional 3,515,625 shares, which option kicks in if the underwriters sell more than 23,437,500 shares to the public in the IPO.

The preliminary filing is described here. In that filing the company indicated it was targeting raising $375 million in the IPO. Math would suggest a $16 targeted share price.

Noble is currently under investigation by the New York Attorney General for allegations of misconduct during the siting process of New York wind farms.

Articles highlight NY wind siting challenges

Two recent articles highlight wind project siting challenges in New York state.

The first, a primarily human interest piece by the Associated Press, describes familial acrimony that developed around the Maple Ridge wind farm in Lowville, which is New York’s largest operational wind farm. Unlike wind-rich rural lands in the Midwest, New York’s wind resources are located in areas made up of scores of small parcels. The vast tracts of property that exist to the west generally cannot be found in New York.  While strife within a family obviously is not unique to New York, the potential for coming across wind project land ownership challenges is great here, as numerous small, individually-owned parcels are needed to create a sizeable wind farm.

The second story, from the New York Times, illustrates the potential for local siting problems when a few developers flush with investment capital rush to the finite areas in the state where wind resources are adequate to merit a wind farm project. Among other issues, the article discusses the allegations of improper currying of favors against Noble Environmental Power and First Wind that currently are being investigated by New York state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. For wind-rich locales, ensuring a transparent, legal and equitable zoning process is paramount. It goes without saying that any credible allegations of anti-competitive activities should also be investigated thoroughly.

NY Attorney General investigates wind companies

The Office of the New York Attorney General (Andrew Cuomo) announced that it has launched an

investigation into two companies developing and operating wind farms across New York state amid allegations of improper dealings with public officials and anti-competitive practices.

The companies are First Wind (formerly UPC Wind) and Noble Environmental Power, LLC. The AG’s office indicated that is has issued subpoenas to collect documents from the companies because in recent months it

has received numerous complaints regarding the two companies from citizens, groups and public officials in eight counties alleging improper relations between the companies and local officials and other improper practices.

Here for the full press release from the Attorney General’s office announcing the investigation into New York wind developers.

It is important to bear in mind that the initiation of an investigation by the Attorney General equates to neither guilt nor innocence. Noble’s CEO, Walt Howard, issued a statement, saying the company

…will cooperate fully with the Attorney General. We are confident the Attorney General’s inquiry will find that Noble’s actions have been legal and proper and we look forward to his review.

Here for the full Noble statement regarding the Attorney General’s investigation.

New York wind energy developments

Enfield

Ithaca Journal (July 10) reports that the Enfield (Tompkins County) Town Board sent a potential wind pact with a resident developer back to its attorney for further review.

GE Financial invests in New York wind power projects

GE announced (July 9) that

With a goal of investing $6 billion in renewable energy by 2010, GE Energy Financial Services surpassed the $4 billion mark today by investing in New York State’s three newest wind farms. The unit of GE (NYSE: GE) will invest a total of $100 million in the three wind farms, whose construction began last month.

The three wind farms, all projects of Noble Environmental Power, and per GE expected to completed this year, are

  • Noble Chateaugay Windpark (106.5 megawatts), in Franklin County
  • Noble Altona Windpark (97.5 megawatts), in Clinton County
  • Noble Wethersfield Windpark (126 megawatts), in Wyoming County

Iberdrola-Energy East update

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (July 11) offers an update on where we are now — awaiting a decision from the New York Public Service Commission on the proposed acquisition by Iberdrola of Energy East. A main sticking point is vertical market integration — should an energy distributor also be permitted to own energy production facilities?

Ithaca residential wind turbine law

Ithaca Journal (July 8) reports that a vote was delayed on a zoning law regarding residential wind projects as the Ithaca Town Board (Tompkins County) could not agree on how much sound should be permitted. Sound (or “noise” as detractors may say), is an important environmental consideration in wind turbine siting.

Lackawanna taxes impacted by wind power

Buffalo News (July 8) reports that city tax rates in Lackawanna (Erie County)
have gone up, at least in part because of an erroneous assessment (or failure to assess) one of the Steel Winds project turbines. Per the report, Steel Winds operates under a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement, which exempts the turbines from taxes, but requires that they still must be assigned an assessed value.

Lyme residents challenge wind decision in court

Watertown Daily Times (July 10) and WNYF-TV (July 10). Residents in Lyme (Jefferson County) have filed an Article 78 proceeding in state court against the Town Board, which according to a group called Voters for Wind, has passed an ordinance that is too restrictive. The zoning ordinance reportedly requires wind turbines to be at least 4,500 feet away from the waterfront and the villages of Chaumont and Three Mile Bay. According to reports, the court’s decision is expected July 31, when the town’s wind power development moratorium expires.

Scipio Town Board discusses Shell wind project

The Citizen (July 10) reports that Scipio town residents (in Cayuga County) are in contact with Shell Wind Energy about a prospective project.

Somerset Town Board sends Empire wind project to planning board

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal (July 10) reports that the Town of Somerset, after failure to reach a revenue sharing pact with Empire Wind, has essentially informed the company to submit any application to the town’s planning board. The report indicates that AES Acciona is also interested in developing a project in Somerset.  (Niagara County)

New York and U.S. wind industry news

Beekmantown examining wind law

According to the Press Republican, the Town of Beekmantown (Clinton County) received negative comments from the Clinton County Planning Department regarding its proposed wind energy conversion systems (WECS) regulations and so has extended a wind development moratorium. The proposal had been modeled after the town’s wireless telecommunications facilities siting law.

Enfield negotiations with wind developer continue

The July 5 Ithaca Journal reports on continuing negotiations between the Town of Enfield (Tompkins County) and wind developer John Rancich. One sticky issue is whether a deal will be struck prior to Enfield passing a WECS law.

Hanover considering new wind law

The July 7 Observer reports that the Town of Hanover (Chautauqua County) is considering a WECS law, in anticipation of a Noble Environmental Power’s Ball Hill wind project.

Lackawanna Schools and Steel Winds

Buffalo Business First reports July 4 on the apparent controversy resulting from payments, or lack thereof, to the City of Lackawanna school district from BQ Energy, developer of the Steel Winds wind project.

Niagara Falls Considering Wind

The Niagara Gazette reports July 6 on the attempt by Empire State Wind to site a project in Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls mayor Paul Dyster is quoted mentioning the importance of public input.

Spafford considering wind law

WSYR-TV reports July 3 and online on the efforts by the Town of Spafford (Onondaga County) to regulate relatively small WECS.

Wind Turbine Recycling

Renewable Energy World has an interesting article on the recycling of wind turbines and the efforts of a Massachusetts company, Aeronautica Windpwer, to do just that. Per the article,

According to the company’s industry research, over 10,000 machines that were installed during the mid ‘80s and ‘90s may soon be replaced by larger, more modern turbines. That’s a lot of generation capacity that would otherwise be scrapped.