EDP Renewables’ (EDPR) 77.7 MW Jericho Rise Wind Farm is the latest in its long line of New York wind farms that were developed and built by either the company or its predecessor, Horizon Wind Energy.
The company’s New York wind portfolio comprises not only the state’s oldest wind project (the 11 MW Madison Wind Farm in 2000), but also its largest (the 322 MW Maple Ridge, which it co-owns with Avangrid Renewables). Now, with the completion of Jericho Rise in December 2016, EDPR also has the latest wind farm spinning in the state.
Situated in the towns of Chateaugay and Belmont, Jericho Rise is powered by 37 Gamesa 2.1 MW G114 turbines with a hub height of 93 meters. A decade in the making, the project began as little more than a land position and a meteorological tower when EDPR acquired it in 2006, explains Aron Branam, development project manager at the site.
The site, Branam notes, has many of the hallmarks of a great wind project: a decent wind source, access to interconnection, compatibility from a wetlands standpoint, and supportive elected officials and landowners. In fact, the project is located about 10 miles west of Marble River and adjacent to wind farms developed by Essex, Conn.-based Noble Environmental Power.
After compiling several years of wind resource monitoring, as well as completing the New York Independent System Operator’s System Reliability Impact Study and a draft environmental impact statement as part of the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR), the wind farm was put on the back burner following the fallout of the global financial crisis of 2009.
By 2010, EDPR began to reassess its global portfolio of wind assets and decided to shelve Jericho Rise. The wind farm lie dormant until 2014, when a market opportunity presented itself in the form of funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the state agency that oversees New York’s renewable portfolio standard.
Although the funding details were not disclosed, Jericho Rise was among four projects that were awarded $206 million under NYSERDA’s ninth Main Tier solicitation. According to NYSERDA, the average award price for the ninth Main Tier solicitation was $22.96/MWh of production over the 20-year contract term – about one-third less than the average contract price for the previous solicitation in January 2013, which was $34.95/MWh of production over 10 years. (For more on the New York wind market, see “New York’s 50% Clean Energy Standard: Making It Real” on page 18.)
NYSERDA to the rescue
The NYSERDA funding provided the impetus to move forward. The challenge quickly became mobilizing the project team quickly enough to meet NYSERDA’s end-of-year deadline.
First, Branam says, there was the matter of completing New York’s rigorous environmental reviews.
Within about 16 months, he explains, the project team was able to complete the supplemental environmental impact statement and receive a finding of no significant impact under the SEQR, which is required for permitting.
One challenge early on related to the presence of the northern long-eared bat (NLEB), a protected species. Acoustical bat surveys performed from June 2015 to August 2015 identified two NLEB echolocation calls, Branam explains.
To minimize potential impacts, the New York State Department of Environmental Compliance restricted tree clearing between April 1, 2016, and Oct. 1, 2016.
However, the project was also waiting on a nationwide wetlands permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. “Each day of waiting for the permit reduced the schedule for clearing,” notes Branam. “In the end, EDPR collaborated with the Army Corps of Engineers and received permission to clear 130 acres in the less than three weeks prior to the April 1 restriction.”
As Jericho Rise moved into the construction phase, several high-wind days delayed construction and added to the project schedule. “There was a fast and furious nature with activity during construction,” he recalls, noting that EDPR was committed to meeting its December deadline.
Nonetheless, Infrastructure & Energy Alternatives, Jericho Rise’s balance-of-plant contractor, managed to meet scheduling milestones and deliver the project on time to NYSERDA.
With construction completed, there was still the matter of working through the New York Power Authority’s (NYPA) interconnection process – and its newly instituted Class Year process, a system impact study that determines network upgrades for interconnection.
According to Branam, the fact that the NYPA allowed interconnection customers, such as EDPR, to negotiate and execute an interconnection agreement prior to completion of the Class Year Study was critical.
“I was very impressed with NYPA,” Branam says, noting that the NYPA worked with Jericho Rise to begin design work based on the expected results of the Class Year Study. “They played no small part in ensuring the process was done correctly and on time.”
Branam is also quick to credit two New York politicians: Franklin County Legislator Billy D. Jones, a Democrat, and Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Republican.
He calls Jones an important intermediary who connected town officials with EDPR on a tax abatement agreement. “He understood the benefits and helped to find a middle ground,” notes Branam. As for Stefanik, Branam says she was a key advocate who ensured the permitting processes were smooth and efficient.
When asked what he would remember most about Jericho Rise, Branam notes that it would be pulling off such a large project in such a short amount of time. Perhaps the numerology associated with the project played some part in its success.
“77.7 is a sign of good luck in some circles,” Branam says, referencing the project’s nameplate. “We had such a good amount of luck in completing this project and bringing it to fruition.”