Governor Kathy Hochul has announced the auction of New York State’s first Build-Ready project to advance large-scale renewable energy development across the state. The New York Energy Research and Development Authority is seeking a partner to transform a former mine in St. Lawrence County into one of the largest solar projects in the Adirondack Park. This announcement represents progress under the State’s Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act and supports New York’s goal for 70% of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030 under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.
“New York is leading the nation with our innovative approach to reach our clean energy goals,” Governor Hochul said. “The Benson Mines solar project will transform otherwise underutilized land, supporting local industry while advancing New York’s clean energy transition. I look forward to moving forward with this project to provide lower-cost, zero emission energy to St. Lawrence County residents.”
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is the administrator of the State’s Build-Ready program and will facilitate the auction. Sited within the boundaries of Benson Mines on a former tailings pile, once operational, the 12-MW solar project to be located at the site is estimated to generate enough renewable energy to power up to 3,000 homes annually, which accounts for approximately 4% of St. Lawrence County’s residents.
“Benson Mines is a prime example of how NYSERDA’s Build-Ready program is pairing existing industrial operations and underutilized land with clean energy to make a significant impact and leave no stone unturned in New York’s clean energy transition,” said NYSERDA president and CEO Doreen M. Harris. “We are grateful to our partners throughout the region who have worked alongside us to make this project a success, and we look forward to selecting a developer to bring this innovative project across the finish line for the St. Lawrence County community.”
NYSERDA has entered into an exclusive lease option agreement with Benson Mines Inc. for the project area and has fully permitted the project with the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). NYSERDA has also advanced the project to the mid-stage of the State’s interconnection process and will be providing interconnection cost estimates to eligible bidders. The awarded bidder will enter into agreements with NYSERDA to buy the project and complete the remaining development and construction needed to bring the envisioned solar project into operation.
NYSERDA will host an informational webinar to provide an overview of the project and the auction process on October 17, 2023 at 11:00 a.m. ET. Interested parties can register for the webinar here.
The Request for Proposal is being implemented through a two-step process. Step one eligibility applications are due on December 7, 2023, at 3:00 p.m. ET. Proposers must meet all minimum eligibility qualifications and be invited to submit a proposal in step two. Step two proposals are due on March 14, 2024, at 3:00 p.m. ET. Interested proposers can review the application process here. NYSERDA anticipates notifying the awardee in the second quarter of 2024.
NYSERDA has worked with community leaders, business partners and regional partner agencies to explore and advance community benefits associated with the project. NYSERDA also collaborated with the Town of Clifton to ensure the project complements the community’s character and long-term economic development plans. NYSERDA and the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency (SLCIDA) are establishing a Host Community Improvement Benefit Fund to be managed by SLCIDA. The fund’s purpose is to advance and support projects that have local impact and align with community and regional interests. NYSERDA and SLCIDA are also advancing the project’s PILOT Agreement.
Benson Mines Inc. continues to operate as an aggregates and timber company. Developing the site for coexistent solar energy generation is consistent with Benson Mines’ long-term goals to promote sustainable industrial development that revitalizes the local economy. Since the 19th century, 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, employing 840 workers. This solar 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 aligns with the Adirondack Council’s principles for the State, including the APA, to responsibly guide development of expanded renewable energy capacity inside the park, to fight climate change, and to provide benefits to communities.
The Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act established the Build-Ready Program and directed NYSERDA to identify, assess and facilitate the development of suitable sites for renewable power-generating facilities, giving priority to “previously developed sites” and “existing or abandoned commercial sites,” such as brownfields, landfills or other disused or underutilized sites, and provide benefits to host communities. In October 2020, the New York Public Service Commission issued an order formally approving the Build-Ready Program. The Order reiterated that the Build-Ready Program will prioritize (1) advancing renewable energy projects on previously developed and existing or abandoned commercial sites and (2) providing benefits to communities hosting these sites.
The Build-Ready Program is currently advancing a pipeline of sites across New York State, having screened over 5,000 locations and progressing dozens of sites through more advanced assessment and development as it prepares multiple solar projects across the state for future Build-Ready auctions. Local community members, elected officials, private companies, environmental justice communities and other interested parties are encouraged to nominate potential Build-Ready sites, which will be considered on a rolling basis, through the program’s Site Nomination Process. More information about the program’s progress and NYSERDA’s plans for actively expanding the pipeline of potential sites on both public and private lands across New York State can be found on the Build-Ready program’s webpage.
News item from NYSERDA