NYSERDA to repurpose former Benson mine into 20 MW solar plant

Yesterday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, the 56th governor of New York State, announced a lease-option agreement for the first build-ready site in New York State, under which the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) will repurpose the formerly mined land in St. Lawrence County into one of the largest solar projects in the Adirondack Park, through New York’s Clean Energy Resources and Development Incentive “Build-Ready” Program. The initiative is expected to create around 100 construction jobs to support the green economy of the state.

New York State has been garnering attention since the start of this year due to announcements related to the renewables sector. In January, Equinor and bp were selected to provide the state with 2490 MW of offshore wind power in one of the largest renewable energy procurements in the US to date. In February, the New York City (NYC) Department of Environmental Protection awarded global consulting and digital services provider ICF a $30 million contract, which includes both re-compete and new program elements, to continue and expand implementation of the city’s energy efficiency, water conservation and clean energy programs for existing and new commercial buildings. The same month, US-based vehicle electrification solutions provider, XL Fleet announced its partnership with UBS Arena and the New York Islanders to explore the deployment and operation of 1,000 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at the new UBS Arena.

Speaking of how the repurposing of the former mine in St. Lawrence County represents innovative thinking, Governor Cuomo said, “As we rebuild and reimagine our economy, projects like this will go a long way in helping us reach our renewable energy goals while creating opportunities for economic growth and fostering cleaner, healthier communities across New York.” The agreement will give a boost to the the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, under which the Governor has set a goal for renewable sources to power 70% of the city’s energy needs by 2030. This project site was presented as part of a first suite of sites being considered under the Build-Ready program announced in Governor Cuomo’s 2021 State of the State.

NYSERDA executed the agreement with Benson Mines, an iron-ore mine located near Star Lake, for which support was given by the Town of Clifton, the Clifton-Fine Economic Development Corporation, St. Lawrence County and the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency (IDA). The Build Ready (BR) Benson Mines Solar project, with an expected capacity of 20 MW, is located in the northwest region of the Adirondack Park, and will be constructed on the remains of Benson’s former iron ore mining operation which was spread over 130 acres. Benson Mines aims to promote sustainable industrial development in the long run, through planning investments that add to local revitalisation and create jobs. Thus, the NYSERDA project aligns well with Benson Mines’ long-term vision for its business.

Benson Mines Director Stuart Carlisle said, “Partnering with NYSERDA through its Build-Ready Program is an important step in redeveloping the Benson site, while we pursue expansion of our aggregates and timber businesses and explore other projects aimed at developing our mineral resources. Ultimately, this solar project will provide over the near-term employment opportunities and deliver cost efficient power to our region.”

After the execution of the agreement, the next step is community engagement and project planning activities. NYSERDA will work with community leaders, business partners and regional partner agencies to explore different community benefit options, such as Payment-In-Lieu-Of-Taxes agreements, customized Host Community Agreements, opportunities for workforce development and job training programs, and offer free technical assistance along the way. NYSERDA will also collaborate closely with the town to ensure the project complements the community’s character and long-term planning, including development considerations for the neighboring J&L Steel site, to help create new local revenue and attract additional economic development opportunities to the area.

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Soumya Duggal

Soumya Duggal

Soumya is a master's degree holder in English, with a passion for writing. It's an interest she has directed towards environmental writing recently, with a special emphasis on the progress being made in renewable energy.

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