NYSERDA “Build-Ready” program will turn former mine into 20-MW solar project

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a lease-option agreement for the first build-ready site in New York State. Under this agreement, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will work closely with the host communities and through New York’s Clean Energy Resources and Development Incentive “Build-Ready” Program to repurpose the formerly mined land in St. Lawrence County into one of the largest solar projects in the Adirondack Park and will create approximately 100 construction jobs in support of New York’s green economy.

The agreement reflects the goals of New York’s new siting law and accelerates progress toward Gov. Cuomo’s goal for 70% of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030 under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

“The repurposing of this former mine in the Adirondack Park represents the innovative thinking that we need to put into action in order to compete in a green energy economy,” 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 land-lease agreement was executed by NYSERDA with Benson Mines with support from the Town of Clifton, the Clifton-Fine Economic Development Corporation, St. Lawrence County and the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency (IDA). Located on the northwest edge of the Adirondack Park, the approximately 20-MW Build Ready (BR) Benson Mines Solar project will be built on the remnants of Benson’s former iron ore mining operation spanning approximately 130 acres.

Repurposing this site is consistent with Benson Mines’ long-term goals to promote sustainable industrial development, plan investments that complement but do not compete with local revitalization and create local jobs. Beginning in the 1800s, the discovery of iron ore and its subsequent mining at 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. It closed in the mid-1970’s and is now an aggregates and timber company serving the North Country.

“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,” said Benson Mines Director Stuart Carlisle.

Achieving this milestone enables the next phase of community engagement and project planning activities such as pre-application permit consultations and filing an interconnection request. Additionally, NYSERDA in collaboration with the Town of Clifton will host a public input session on May 25, 2021 to kick off broader public involvement of the project. Those interested in staying informed on the upcoming public input session can sign up here.

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.

This 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 supports the Adirondack Council’s newly approved set of principles for the State, including the Adirondack Park Agency, to responsibly guide development of expanded renewable energy capacity inside the park, to fight climate change, and to provide benefits to communities.

This project site was advanced as part of a first suite of sites being considered under the Build-Ready program and announced in Governor Cuomo’s 2021 State of the State. Local community members, elected officials, private companies, environmental justice communities or other interested parties are encouraged to nominate potential build-ready locations, which will be considered on a rolling basis, through its Request for Information issued last July.

News item from NYSERDA

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