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Windmill deal is dead, says power agency

The New York Power Authority announced almost 2 1/2 years ago that it had received the OK to proceed with "final negotiations" and execute an agreement with Chautauqua Windpower to buy electricity.

The deal was supposed to kick in last Jan. 1 and extend for 10 years, but it apparently never got off the ground, and now the Power Authority is no longer interested.

Power Authority spokesman Michael Saltzman confirmed Thursday that the two entities never reached an agreement.

"They weren't able to obtain the necessary permits, so we've moved onto other arrangements," Saltzman said. "We are no longer in negotiation with Chautauqua Windpower."

That's the second big blow to the proposed 34-turbine wind project overlooking Lake Erie in Westfield and Ripley. Earlier this fall, the company confirmed that it had lost its $3 million grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority because of lack of progress.

The project was expected to produce about 50 megawatts of electricity, enough to provide energy for about 16,500 homes. The Power Authority was prepared to buy half of the power.

Jasper Energy -- Chautauqua Windpower's parent company -- emerged from York Energy's bankruptcy in 2002 and picked up York's interests in the Chautauqua project. But the company has struggled with the permit process in the face of opposition from groups concerned about the effects of putting 300-foot high towers with rapidly spinning blades along the ridge overlooking the lake. It's a major flight path for migratory birds.

"This project would have cost well over $50 million to build, but the developer appears to have been unable to raise $2.5 million. That might indicate how ineffective the company has been at selling the project to investors," a statement from the Chautauqua County Citizens for Responsible Wind Power said.

Saltzman said the Power Authority had also failed to reach a deal with Windfarm Prattsburgh, the other windfarm it had selected for power in 2003.

Instead, Saltzman said, it was committed to getting 75 megawatts of power from Horizon Wind Energy, co-developer of the Maple Ridge wind project in Lewis County.

e-mail: eploetz@buffnews.com

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