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Two renewable energy projects in WNY get contracts from state

A pair of Western New York renewable energy projects have won contracts from a state agency to provide energy to New York consumers -- a key step that could help those facilities obtain needed financing.

The Noble Bliss Wind Park, which would build 67 wind turbines in the Wyoming County town of Bliss, was awarded a contract from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the state Public Service Commission.

USRG Niagara Biomass, a subsidiary of U.S. Renewables, was one of two biomass facilities in the state that also received contracts. Niagara Biomass took over operations and bought a 52-megawatt plant at 5380 Frontier Ave. in January from WPS Niagara Generation for $31 million, with plans to convert the coal-burning facility to one that burns wood and chipped tires as fuel.

In all, the state awarded 21 contracts to renewable energy facilities across New York valued at a total of $295 million.

The contracts, which will be paid out over a 10-year period, include incentives that average about $15 per megawatt hour once the facilities begin operating. NYSERDA officials declined to disclose the value of the individual contracts.

Noble Environmental Power CEO Charles C. Hinckley, whose company received contracts for five wind projects throughout New York with a combined capacity of 511 megawatts, said the purchase agreements were important elements in advancing the projects.

Investors typically demand that power projects line up customers before they are willing to commit their money.

The contracts are part of the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard initiative that aims to have New York get 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2013.

The initiative is designed to reduce the state's dependence on fossil fuel, reduce harmful emissions and create jobs through the development of new power plants.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer, in announcing the contracts, said the renewable portfolio initiative has attracted $2 billion in private investment.

"Well-crafted policies to reduce greenhouse gases can provide tremendous economic benefits," he said.

The 21 power plants that received contracts during the second round of the renewable energy program will have the capacity to generate a total of 880 megawatts of power, or enough to supply about 435,000 homes.

e-mail: drobinson@buffnews.com

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