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The 215.25 MW Marble River wind farm, owned and operated by EDP Renewables (EDPR) North America, is noteworthy on several fronts. For starters, the wind farm was the largest grid-connected New York project to come online in 2012. It is being powered by 70 Vestas V112 3.075 MW wind turbines, the largest land-based wind turbine in North America.

According to EDPR, Marble River was completed in time to qualify for the Section 1603 cash grant. Additionally, in March 2010, the project developers received state funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), which awarded EDPR a 10-year renewable energy certificate contract for 171 MW following its fifth competitive solicitation. In June 2011, EDPR won NYSERDA’s sixth main-tier solicitation with 45 MW, allowing the developer to combine the results from the fifth solicitation to build the full 216 MW wind farm. (For more on the New York wind market, see “Can New York Reset Its Wind Energy Destiny?”.)

Another notable aspect of the project is the near decade-long effort to complete it. Marble River dates back to 2003, when the project was originally owned as a joint venture by ACCIONA and AES and operated under the name New York Windpower. In 2008, EDPR bought the ownership interests from ACCIONA and AES and moved the project into its construction phase.

The location was selected based on a wind map prepared by Albany, N.Y.-based AWS Truepower, which was hired by the state of New York to identify the top 100 locations, according to wind resource and other factors. The wind map ended up being instrumental in helping New York usher in its renewable portfolio standard in 2004.

With 7.5 m/s and easy accessibility to transmission, the Marble River site was among the best identified, recalls Patrick Doyle, a New York-based wind developer who worked on the wind farm during its pre-construction phase. “It’s a great site and provides a magnificent view of the river valley.”

Other wind developers, such as Essex, Conn.-based Noble Environmental Power, also used the AWS data and began planning wind projects in the area. Today, Noble owns and operates the 97.5 MW Noble Altona, 106.5 MW Noble Chateaugay, 81 MW Noble Ellenburg and 100.5 MW Noble Clinton.

“I guess everybody saw the same map,” quips Doyle.

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Site challenges

However, putting aside Marble River’s prime wind resources, wide swaths of the site location are in the wetlands of the St. Lawrence River Valley. And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation expressed concerns about permitting a wind farm in an area known for its slow drainage and high-water table.

To allay the agencies’ concerns, EDPR reduced the project’s footprint by a third and lessened the impact to the area wetlands. Most notably, EDPR modified the wind farm’s original layout, reducing the number of turbines from 109 to 70. However, to keep the project’s nameplate at the same level with fewer turbines, EDPR selected Vestas’ V112 3.075 MW turbines to power the site, instead of its original choice – the Suzlon S88 2 MW wind turbines.

Citing its history with Vestas, the developer was not concerned about using the new turbine model, explains Bill Whitlock, executive vice president at EDP Renewables. In fact, Vestas has supplied turbines at numerous New York wind farms owned or co-owned by EDPR. For example, Vestas’ V82 turbines power the 322 MW Maple Ridge wind farm, located in the towns of Martinsburg, Lowville, Watson and Harrisburg, which EDPR co-owns with Iberdrola Renewables, and six 1.65 MW turbines power EDPR’s Madison Wind Farm, located in Madison.

“EDPR moved to the 3.075 MW V112 turbine, as it was the best turbine for both the landscape and the wind speed,” explains Whitlock. “Moving up to the V112 allowed EDPR to reduce environmental impacts while still maintaining the proposed electrical output of the turbines, as well as the benefits to the community.”

Other modifications included decreasing the length of both the proposed access roads and buried electrical collection lines and removing any overhead electrical lines.

Even with the modifications, wind farm construction provided some difficult geotechnical and environmental challenges for Tetra Tech Construction, the wind farm’s balance-of-plant contractor.

“It’s a very moist site – if we’re not in mud, we’re in rock,” Peter Geelan, project manager at Tetra Tech, told NAW during the construction phase in 2012.

According to Tetra Tech, its initial scope of work included engineering and civil construction infrastructure activities that consisted of the installation of over 22 miles of access roads, concrete foundations for 70 wind towers, three wetland mitigation sites and public road intersection improvements.

EDPR also instructed Tetra Tech to construct the electrical infrastructure of the Marble River high-voltage substation and switchyard, which included site development and installation of precast foundations and the 230 MW main power transformer and control building. Additionally, Tetra Tech worked on the 34.5 kV medium-voltage collection system, which included installing 7,700 linear feet of horizontal drilled conduit, trenching 59 miles of direct bury triplex collection cable with fiber optic communications cable, installing 56 junction boxes, and testing and commissioning the collection circuits.

“Environmentally and geologically, Marble River was an extreme project, as we worked through both wetlands and through rocky terrain,” recalls Jeff Bishop, EDPR’s senior manager of government and regulatory affairs. “But by diligent concern and by working with the state agencies, we were able to find a layout solution that was good for the environment, good for the project and good for the community.”

In its first year of operation, Bishop notes Marble River has met expectations for wind capacity factors and availability. w

Project Profile: Marble River Wind Farm

Project Dating Back To 2003 Gets Built In N.Y.

By Mark Del Franco

After nearly a decade in the making, EDP Renewables braved difficult site conditions to bring the Marble River wind farm online last year.

 

 

 

 

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