to the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
Black Oak Hits Key Development Milestones
Black Oak Wind Farm in Enfield, about 10 miles west of Ithaca, achieved several significant milestones in the past few months, moving slowly but surely towards the day when it begins operation. The first commercial-scale wind farm in the East owned by local investors, the 11.9 MW project consists of seven 1.7MW turbines manufactured by General Electric (GE). The total cost will be about $40 million.
Consisting of 21 separate studies, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was completed and a public hearing was held in July. Nearly all of the speakers at the public hearing expressed strong support for the project and the Final EIS is now being readied for approval by the Town Board of Enfield.
The Black Oak board attained another major milestone in December when it executed a contract with GE for the turbines. At the same time a construction crew graded the turbine roads and dug a foundation hole for a permanent met tower to collect wind data.
Together these actions ensured that the wind farm met Internal Revenue Service requirements for the federal production tax credit, a critical part of the project's financial viability. Congress did not extend this tax incentive for the wind industry beyond 2013, which obviously made qualifying last year a crucial task.
Perhaps most significant, NYSERDA announced last month that it had awarded a contract to Black Oak to buy its renewable energy credits for the first ten years. The $16.3 million contract represents another key revenue stream for the wind farm. The downside of the NYSERDA award was that it required a $400,000 letter of credit for contract security to guarantee Black Oak's follow-through, necessitating a second round of equity financing.
Black Oak's first round was very successful, raising $1.2 million from over 80 investors, most of whom are from the local community. The second round also went smoothly, with another $625,000 raised in just a few weeks. Twenty-six new members joined as a result of the latest round, bringing the wind farm's membership to about 110 households.
Other important milestones include the receipt of bids from contractors to construct the project; conclusion of the second of three interconnection studies with the NYISO; and installation of high speed internet, which will service the project but also provide service to western Enfield residents for the first time.