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Former mine turning into big solar project in Adirondack Park, NY

Written by: Leonard Parker | solar news | April 29, 2021

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a lease-option agreement for the first build-ready site in New York State 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 the state’s goal for 70 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030 under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

The land-lease agreement was executed by NYSERDA with Benson Mines, Inc., with support from the Town of Clifton, the Clifton-Fine Economic Development Corporation, St. Lawrence County, and the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency. Located on the north-west edge of the Adirondack Park, the approximately 20 MW Build Ready Benson Mines Solar project will be built on the remnants of Benson’s former iron ore mining operation spanning approximately 130 acres. Once completed, the project will provide enough renewable energy to power over 4,500 homes.

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.

Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway said, “Making this location available in the Adirondack Park for a solar project will bring new economic life to a corner of the park that needs more sustainable jobs and more stability to the power grid without new air pollution. Instead of digging rock out the ground, this project will pull sunlight out of the sky to ensure that local communities are benefiting from clean energy while protecting the Park’s lakes and streams from acid rain and other impacts of climate change.”  

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 July 2020. More information about the program’s progress and NYSERDA’s plans for actively developing an expanded pipeline of potential sites on both public and private lands across New York State can be found in NYSERDA’s Build-Ready Annual Progress Report.

Senator Kevin Parker, Chair, Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, said, “I applaud NYSERDA for acquiring their first “Build-Ready” site. This initiative will provide renewable energy to power more than 4,500 homes, and I look forward to the expansion of these lease agreements which will help us to meet and exceed our clean energy goals.” 

Assembly Member Michael Cusick, Chair, Assembly Energy Committee, said, “Today’s announcement of the lease-option agreement in St. Lawrence County is the first in what I am confident will be many such projects. The reincarnation of formerly mined land as one of Adirondack Park’s largest solar projects serves as a prime example that our state is moving swiftly towards building the energy grid of the future.”

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