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No Power from Cohocton?

Power grid operator: no power so far to state grid from Cohocton

Cohocton, NY - After years of development, construction, anxiety and lawsuits, the hills surrounding Cohocton have sprouted 50 commercial wind turbines.

Now that First Wind has wrapped up its construction in Cohocton and the turbines are now spinning in the breeze, is that energy being sold?

According to the grid operator, no. And that’s not expected to change anytime soon.

Richard Barlette, manager of government affairs for the New York Independent System Operator — the not-for-profit company that moderates the state’s power grid and gives all power projects the green light — said no power generated at the site has been sold for consumption.

“They’re currently under the connection process,” he said. “As far as ‘flipping the switch,’ a ball park figure is December 2010.”

That connection process contains several steps, Barlette said, which are long and complicated.

“It’s not just sticking a turbine in the ground one day and producing electricity,” he said. “Every plant you build goes through the process.”

The biggest test, he said, is seeing if the grid can handle the extra power — 125 megawatts, in Cohocton’s case.

“We need to know the impact and reliability on the grid. We need to make sure it doesn’t negatively affect the grid.”

NYISO’s word comes in contrast to what town officials have heard from First Wind in the past.

Jack Zigenfus, Cohocton town supervisor, was last told by First Wind that the project was ready to transmit power and he thought it was.

“I received a letter that it had met all the criteria from all the regulatory agencies,” Zigenfus said. “They have to be operating to be obligated to pay the town.”

Zigenfus said the town has received at least $1.81 million from the project so far. The first payment — of $725,000 — came to the town in 2007 from the project as part of the community host agreement, with an additional $937,500 entering the town’s coffers by the end of 2008. First Wind also transfered to the town $150,000 for historical remediation, which the town and village boards hope to put towards renovating the Larrowe House, which currently houses the town and village clerk offices.

He also said he heard from officials at the Wayland-Cohocton Central School District it received the first Payment in Lieu of Taxes check from First Wind.

Cohocton officials applauded First Wind for “throwing the switch” on the 50-turbine wind energy development in December, while according to John Lamontagne, director of corporate communications for First Wind, the project was believed to be up and running in 2008.

"The time frame was to be by the end of the year,” he said in a Dec. 16, 2008 phone interview.

According to company officials in 2007 — when the company was known as UPC Wind — the project was expected to be up and running about a year after construction began.

Dirt first started moving on the project Sept. 18, 2007, with tower construction commencing in November. Work on the first two towers, complete with turbine blades, was finished Jan. 3. Of the 50 towers, 47 are spread across Lent, Pine and Dutch hills, dominating much of the view around Cohocton, North Cohocton and Atlanta. The three remaining turbines are on Brown Hill to the south of the village, where the project connects to the regional energy grid.

First Wind officials did not immediately return messages for comment.

By Bob Clark, The Hornell Evening Tribune

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