Sunday, December 18, 2005

Huge wind farm ready to make power

Huge wind farm ready to make power
Sunday, December 18, 2005
By Tim Knauss
Staff writer
Five years ago, the construction of seven windmills in Madison County was such a big deal that the U.S. secretary of energy, Bill Richardson, flew in for the groundbreaking.

At the time, Madison Windpower Project was the only large-scale wind plant in New York, and the biggest of its kind east of the Mississippi River.

Now, it seems puny.

To see why, travel 70 miles north from Madison County to a ridge overlooking the Black River valley, just west of Lowville in Lewis County. There you'll find Maple Ridge Wind Farm, where 117 towering wind turbines have been erected since May amid hayfields, farmhouses and snowmobile trails.

Three more turbines are scheduled to go up by the end of the year, for a total of 120.

Soon, perhaps this weekend, the wind farm operators will begin powering up the electronic controls in the machines so they can start producing electricity, said Patrick Doyle, director of development for Horizon Wind Energy, which owns 50 percent of the project.

Laced together by 75 miles of underground cable, the windmills will send power to a new substation, and from there down a new 10-mile-long transmission line connecting the wind farm to the statewide power grid.

Maple Ridge will generate more power in a year than is used by all 10,000 households in Lewis County plus all 40,000 households in nearby Jefferson County.