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Progress Under New York's Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act Seeking Partner to Transform Former Mine in St. Lawrence County into One of the Largest Solar Projects in the Adirondack Park

Supports New York’s Goal for 70% of the State’s Electricity to Come from Renewables by 2030

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the auction of New York State’s first Build-Ready project to advance large-scale renewable energy development across the state. The New York Energy Research and Development Authority is seeking a partner to transform a former mine in St. Lawrence County into one of the largest solar projects in the Adirondack Park. Today’s announcement represents progress under the State’s Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act and supports New York’s goal for 70% of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030 under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

“New York is leading the nation with our innovative approach to reach our clean energy goals,” Governor Hochul said. “The Benson Mines solar project will transform otherwise underutilized land, supporting local industry while advancing New York’s clean energy transition. I look forward to moving forward with this project to provide lower-cost, zero emission energy to St. Lawrence County residents.”

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is the administrator of the State’s Build-Ready program and will facilitate the auction. Sited within the boundaries of Benson Mines on a former tailings pile, once operational, the 12-megawatt solar project to be located at the site is estimated to generate enough renewable energy to power up to 3,000 homes annually, which accounts for approximately 4% of St. Lawrence County’s residents.

NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, “Benson Mines is a prime example of how NYSERDA’s Build-Ready program is pairing existing industrial operations and underutilized land with clean energy to make a significant impact and leave no stone unturned in New York’s clean energy transition. We are grateful to our partners throughout the region who have worked alongside us to make this project a success, and we look forward to selecting a developer to bring this innovative project across the finish line for the St. Lawrence County community.”

Department of Public Service CEO Rory M. Christian said, “Governor Hochul deserves credit for focusing the State’s effort on developing and moving ahead with programs such as NYSERDA’s Build-Ready program. This RFP begins the competitive process to award a contract to developer that submits the most cost-effective and viable proposal to develop the first Build Ready site. It is through programs such as this that will enable us to make the transition to a clean-energy economy.”

NYSERDA has entered into an exclusive lease option agreement with Benson Mines Inc. for the project area and has fully permitted the project with the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). NYSERDA has also advanced the project to the mid-stage of the State’s interconnection process and will be providing interconnection cost estimates to eligible bidders. The awarded bidder will enter into agreements with NYSERDA to buy the project and complete the remaining development and construction needed to bring the envisioned solar project into operation.

NYSERDA will host an informational webinar to provide an overview of the project and the auction process on October 17, 2023 at 11:00 a.m. ET. Interested parties can register for the webinar here.

The Request for Proposal is being implemented through a two-step process. Step one eligibility applications are due on December 7, 2023, at 3:00 p.m. ET. Proposers must meet all minimum eligibility qualifications and be invited to submit a proposal in step two. Step two proposals are due on March 14, 2024, at 3:00 p.m. ET. Interested proposers can review the application process here. NYSERDA anticipates notifying the awardee in the second quarter of 2024.

NYSERDA has worked with community leaders, business partners, and regional partner agencies to explore and advance community benefits associated with the project. NYSERDA also collaborated with the Town of Clifton to ensure the project complements the community's character and long-term economic development plans. NYSERDA and the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency (SLCIDA) are establishing a Host Community Improvement Benefit Fund to be managed by SLCIDA. The fund’s purpose is to advance and support projects that have local impact and align with community and regional interests. NYSERDA and SLCIDA are also advancing the project’s PILOT Agreement.

Benson Mines Inc. continues to operate as an aggregates and timber company. Developing the site for coexistent solar energy generation is consistent with Benson Mines' long-term goals to promote sustainable industrial development that revitalizes the local economy. Since the 19th century, 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, employing 840 workers. This solar 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 aligns with the Adirondack Council's principles for the State, including the APA, to responsibly guide development of expanded renewable energy capacity inside the park, to fight climate change, and to provide benefits to communities.

Stuart M. Carlisle, President, Benson Mines said, “We are pleased to have partnered with NYSERDA on this project, which is aligned with our objectives of building sustainable investments from the resources available at our site. This will bring needed jobs to the area, which we are confident will begin to take shape under our latest aggregates partnership and ultimately through the resumption of processing minerals. We would like to thank the NYSERDA team, the County Board of Legislators, and the IDA for their support on this project and helping to further the execution of our strategic plan.”

Adirondack Park Agency Executive Director Barb Rice said, “The Adirondack Park Agency was very pleased to work successfully with NYSERDA, Benson Mines and St. Lawrence County to issue a permit to authorize this innovative clean energy project. Under Governor Kathy Hochul’s leadership New York State continues to lead by example to accelerate clean renewable energy growth. The development of the Benson Mine site for coexistent solar energy generation is an outstanding example of how to integrate large scale solar projects into rural communities and protected landscapes.”

The Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act established the Build-Ready Program and directed NYSERDA to identify, assess, and facilitate the development of suitable sites for renewable power-generating facilities, giving priority to “previously developed sites” and “existing or abandoned commercial sites,” such as brownfields, landfills, or other disused or underutilized sites, and provide benefits to host communities. In October 2020, the New York Public Service Commission issued an order formally approving the Build-Ready Program. The Order reiterated that the Build-Ready Program will prioritize (1) advancing renewable energy projects on previously developed and existing or abandoned commercial sites and (2) providing benefits to communities hosting these sites.

The Build-Ready Program is currently advancing a pipeline of sites across New York State, having screened over 5,000 locations, and progressing dozens of sites through more advanced assessment and development as it prepares multiple solar projects across the state for future Build-Ready auctions. Local community members, elected officials, private companies, environmental justice communities, and other interested parties are encouraged to nominate potential Build-Ready sites, which will be considered on a rolling basis, through the program’s Site Nomination Process. More information about the program’s progress and NYSERDA’s plans for actively expanding the pipeline of potential sites on both public and private lands across New York State can be found on the Build-Ready program’s webpage.

State Senator Dan Stec said, “Bringing good-paying jobs and new initiatives to our region is vital. The auction to transform the former St Lawrence County Mine into a large-scale solar project has the opportunity to bring new economic development to our region.”

Assemblymember Ken Blankenbush said, “This is an exciting opportunity for Clifton residents in St. Lawrence County. The Benson Mines have historically been known for their innovative and economic influence in the community. The mine is New York’s first auctioned project for renewable energy development and will create a productive and meaningful opportunity for the Benson property. I support the residents in their decision to host this project. I look forward to seeing the region flourish with these developments.”

St. Lawrence County Vice Chairman and Legislator, District 6, Larry Denesha, said, “The formal announcement of the impending auction is exiting news, not only for the Towns of Clifton and Fine, but for all of St. Lawrence County. To see a significant portion of the defunct Benson Mines/J&L property become productive again has long been a dream of the community. Now, thanks to the hard work and determination of people and organizations too numerous to list, it will soon be a reality.”

St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency CEO Patrick J. Kelly said, "As we continue to work with NYSERDA on the Build Ready program, it is clear that we are making progress on our shared goals as we move into this next phase of the project. Developing a portion of the underutilized Benson property for renewable energy generation will bring new investment, infrastructure development, and economic benefits to the local community while supporting the State's green energy goals."


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