Partially developed 12 MWac brownfield solar site up for auction in New York
The 111.5 acre former iron ore mine has undergone zoning and interconnection work by New York’s NYSERDA team to minimize risks associated with developing projects on sites that the state deems ideal for hosting solar power projects.
Benson Mines solar project.
Image: Build Ready Program
New York is on the hunt for a company to construct and take ownership of the partially developed Benson Mines Solar Project. This initiative marks the first auction of the state’s Build Ready program. The program aims to collaborate with local landowners to responsibly site potential solar power plants. The program’s goal is to shepherd these projects through the riskier stages of solar development, particularly zoning and interconnection, before handing them off to developers to deliver the facilities to the market.
An introductory webinar is scheduled for Tuesday, October 17, 2023 from 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m..
The state’s latest press release identifies the project as a 12 MWac facility. Originally designed for up to 20 MWac with single-axis tracker solar modules, it was later scaled back to the current 12 MWac due to “non-local utility system upgrades.” These non-local upgrades often pertain to transmission modifications, specifically when the local substation needs to export surplus solar electricity elsewhere on the grid. Developers can, however, expand the project back to its original 20 MWac capacity if they deem the upgrades financially viable.
Spanning 111.5 acres, the project will house solar panels within a chain-link fence on the former Benson Mines tailings pile. Located across from a former federal Superfund site, this area once saw a massive spill: a million gallons of oil permeating the ground and the Little River. Its close proximity to the National Grid’s Star Lake substation minimizes connection costs using underground lines. The project has procured both a subdivision and a solar facility permit. Notably, it’s a mere one-eighth mile from the protected Five Ponds Wilderness Area.
The successful bidder will enter negotiations for a Membership Interest Purchase Agreement, acquiring the project’s rights from the state. The New York State Energy Research and Development (NYSERDA) oversees the entire procedure. The new owner will also sign a 20-year agreement to sell the project’s renewable energy certificates (RECs) back to NYSERDA.
Recent ventures have locked in REC contracts with a guaranteed minimum “Index REC strike price” of $75.19/MWh.
A comprehensive list of timelines and milestones is available on the project’s Request for Proposal page, including the informational webinar on October 17 and the deadline for questions on October 27.
To participate in the auction, construction firms must present a $1.5 million letter of credit from a reputable commercial bank and have a $30 million bond on standby.
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