Governor Cuomo Announces Lease-Option Agreement for First Build-Ready Project in New York State
Former Mine in St. Lawrence County Will Be Repurposed into One of the Largest Solar Projects in the Adirondack Park and Designed with Local Community Input
April 27, 2021
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a lease-option agreement for the first build-ready site in New York State. Under this agreement, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will work closely with the host communities and through New York's Clean Energy Resources and Development Incentive "Build-Ready" Program to repurpose the formerly mined land in St. Lawrence County into one of the largest solar projects in the Adirondack Park and will create approximately 100 construction jobs in support of New York's green economy.
The agreement reflects the goals of New York's new siting law and accelerates progress toward Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's goal for 70 percent of the state's electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030 under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.
"The repurposing of this former mine in the Adirondack Park represents the innovative thinking that we need to put into action in order to compete in a green energy economy," Governor Cuomo said. "As we rebuild and reimagine our economy, projects like this will go a long way in helping us reach our renewable energy goals while creating opportunities for economic growth and fostering cleaner, healthier communities across New York."
Doreen M. Harris, President and CEO, NYSERDA said, "As New York continues to prioritize strategic investments that stimulate economic development across the state, we are taking a comprehensive approach to rapidly advance large-scale renewable energy projects in support of the State's nation-leading climate and clean energy goals. This milestone agreement provides an important opportunity for us to work with local officials and residents to build this project on underutilized land in a way that provides direct and long-lasting benefits to the surrounding community."
The land-lease agreement was executed by NYSERDA with Benson Mines, Inc., with support from the Town of Clifton, the Clifton-Fine Economic Development Corporation, St. Lawrence County, and the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency (IDA). Located on the north-west edge of the Adirondack Park, the approximately 20-megawatt Build Ready (BR) Benson Mines Solar project will be built on the remnants of Benson's former iron ore mining operation spanning approximately 130 acres. Once completed, the project will provide enough renewable energy to power more than 4,500 homes.
Repurposing this site is consistent with Benson Mines' long-term goals to promote sustainable industrial development, plan investments that complement but do not compete with local revitalization and create local jobs. Beginning in the 1800s, the discovery of iron ore and its subsequent mining at Benson Mines has played a foundational role in the Towns of Clifton and Fine's history and at its peak, the mine was considered the largest open pit iron-ore mine in the world. It closed in the mid-1970's and is now an aggregates and timber company serving the North Country.
Benson Mines Director Stuart Carlisle said, "Partnering with NYSERDA through its Build-Ready Program is an important step in redeveloping the Benson site, while we pursue expansion of our aggregates and timber businesses and explore other projects aimed at developing our mineral resources. Ultimately, this solar project will provide over the near-term employment opportunities and deliver cost efficient power to our region. We are grateful to the State, the County Board of Legislators and IDA for their continued support of this and other projects that are being pursued at Benson Mines."
St. Lawrence County Vice Chairman and Legislator Larry Denesha representing District 6 said, "St. Lawrence County is encouraged to see the development of solar energy projects in the Town of Clifton and the Adirondack Park. The opportunity to reinvigorate a site that could provide sustainable energy for the future allows for otherwise underutilized land to find a new purpose."
St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency CEO Patrick J. Kelly said, "The underutilized portions of the Benson property offer a mix of redevelopment opportunities, including renewable energy generation. We look forward to working with NYSERDA and local partners to ensure this project brings new investment, infrastructure development, and economic benefits to the local community while supporting the State's green energy goals."
Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway said, "Making this location available in the Adirondack Park for a solar project will bring new economic life to a corner of the park that needs more sustainable jobs and more stability to the power grid without new air pollution. Instead of digging rock out the ground, this project will pull sunlight out of the sky to ensure that local communities are benefiting from clean energy while protecting the Park's lakes and streams from acid rain and other impacts of climate change."
Anne Reynolds, Executive Director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York stated, "Just one year after a law passed creating this program, NYSERDA is out of the gate with the first Build Ready project. The renewable energy industry applauds this progress and recognizes that New York's efforts to develop projects in underused industrial sites will be an important contribution to the overall goal of 70% renewable energy by 2030."
Achieving this milestone enables the next phase of community engagement and project planning activities such as pre-application permit consultations and filing an interconnection request. Additionally, NYSERDA in collaboration with the Town of Clifton will host a public input session on May 25, 2021 to kick off broader public involvement of the project. Those interested in staying informed on the upcoming public input session can sign up here.
NYSERDA will work with community leaders, business partners, and regional partner agencies to explore different community benefit options, such as Payment-In-Lieu-Of-Taxes agreements, customized Host Community Agreements, opportunities for workforce development and job training programs, and offer free technical assistance along the way. NYSERDA will also collaborate closely with the Town to ensure the project complements the community's character and long-term planning, including development considerations for the neighboring J&L Steel site, to help create new local revenue and attract additional economic development opportunities to the area.
This project complements efforts by the North Country Regional Economic Development Council to encourage and support economic growth in the region's small cities and rural communities, and supports the Adirondack Council's newly approved set of principles for the State, including the Adirondack Park Agency, to responsibly guide development of expanded renewable energy capacity inside the park, to fight climate change, and to provide benefits to communities.
This project site was advanced as part of a first suite of sites being considered under the Build-Ready program and announced in Governor Cuomo's 2021 State of the State. Local community members, elected officials, private companies, environmental justice communities, or other interested parties are encouraged to nominate potential build-ready locations, which will be considered on a rolling basis, through its Request for Information issued last July. More information about the program's progress and NYSERDA's plans for actively developing an expanded pipeline of potential sites on both public and private lands across New York State can be found in NYSERDA's Build-Ready Annual Progress Report [PDF].
Senator Kevin Parker, Chair, Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, said, "I applaud NYSERDA for acquiring their first "Build-Ready" site. This initiative will provide renewable energy to power more than 4,500 homes, and I look forward to the expansion of these lease agreements which will help us to meet and exceed our clean energy goals."
Assembly Member Michael Cusick, Chair, Assembly Energy Committee, said, "Today's announcement of the lease-option agreement in St. Lawrence County is the first in what I am confident will be many such projects. The reincarnation of formerly mined land as one of Adirondack Park's largest solar projects serves as a prime example that our state is moving swiftly towards building the energy grid of the future."
New York State's Nation-Leading Climate Plan
Governor Cuomo's nation-leading climate agenda is the most aggressive climate and clean energy initiative in the nation, calling for an orderly and just transition to clean energy that creates jobs and continues fostering a green economy as New York State recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Enshrined into law through the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, New York is on a path to achieving its mandated goal of a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040, including 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030, and to reach economy wide carbon neutrality. It builds on New York's unprecedented ramp-up of clean energy including over $4 billion invested in 91 large-scale renewable projects across the state, supporting more than 150,000 jobs in New York's clean energy sector in 2019, a commitment to develop 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035, and 1,800 percent growth in the distributed solar sector since 2011. Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York will build on this progress and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, while ensuring that at least 35 percent with a goal of 40 percent of the benefits of clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities and advancing progress towards the state's 2025 energy efficiency target of reducing on-site energy consumption by 185 trillion BTUs of end-use energy savings.
NYSERDA, a public benefit corporation, offers objective information and analysis, innovative programs, technical expertise, and funding to help New Yorkers increase energy efficiency, save money, use renewable energy, and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. NYSERDA professionals work to protect the environment and create clean-energy jobs. NYSERDA has been developing partnerships to advance innovative energy solutions in New York State since 1975. To learn more about NYSERDA’s programs and funding opportunities, visit nyserda.ny.gov or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram.
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