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Megawatts up at Steel Winds; Six new turbines at former Bethlehem Steel site increase the project's overall capacity by 75%

The six new wind turbines at the former Bethlehem Steel complex along the Lake Erie shoreline have started generating electricity, a spokesman for the Steel Winds project said.

The new turbines, which have a combined capacity to generate up to 15 megawatts, increase the overall capacity of the Steel Winds project by 75 percent.

They started generating electricity in late January, joining eight other windmills from the first phase of the project that began operating in Lackawanna in 2007.

"The turbines are spinning. It's pretty much up and running," said John Lamontagne, a spokesman for First Wind, the Massachusetts-based company that is developing the Steel Winds project.

"What's great about this project is it's taking what basically is a brownfield and putting it to work generating clean energy," Lamontagne said.

The company is hosting local officials at a ceremony to mark the official completion of the second phase of the Steel Winds project at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Woodlawn Beach State Park.

Each of the turbines is 410 feet tall -- more than twice the height of Niagara Falls and are second only to One HSBC Center among the tallest structures in the Buffalo Niagara region.

The 14 turbines in the Steel Winds project, spread out on a site that stretches between Hamburg and Lackawanna, can generate up to 35 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 9,000 homes, company officials said.

Ten of the turbines are located in Lackawanna, while four -- all part of the latest expansion -- are in Hamburg. The two turbines that were built in Lackawanna as part of the second phase of the project were split between the original windmills, with one on the north end and one to the south.

The initial phase of the project cost an estimated $40 million, and the latest expansion added $25 million to $30 million to the project's overall price tag.

While the project received large tax breaks, the project is expected to generate about $190,000 a year in tax revenues to Erie County and schools and municipal governments in Hamburg and Lackawanna.