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It is time for Albany to put its money where its mouth is.  The new plan to convert the Cayuga Power Plant into a cloud data center takes all local objections off the table, and creatively aligns with Governor Andrew Cuomo's energy road map and his recent announcement that all coal powered plants must shut down next year.  Not only will the plant use no fossil fuels, but if Albany grants the power allocations the company is asking for, the 100 megawatt facility will be powered by hydropower and a 15 to 20 megawatt solar farm it still intends to build.  Plus it will create 30 to 40 full time jobs with $40,000 to $60,000 annual salaries.  And it will begin to reverse the very significant tax revenue loss for Lansing schools, town, and Tompkins County.

The Power plant has lost $140 million in value since 2009, resulting in devastating tax revenue losses, especially for the Lansing school district.  To be clear, school officials now say that at the current time and revenue level the closing of the plant would not be catastrophic.  But that doesn't erase several lean years that forced layoffs and program cuts in the Lansing schools.  The new venture would certainly bring the value of the facility up, restoring some of that tax revenue loss, and bringing new well-paying jobs to Lansing.

This is also a plan that could erase a lot of the contention over fossil fuels vs. renewable energy in Tompkins County.  The coal-fired plant will not burn coal. It will not convert to any form of natural gas.  It will consume a lot of power, but all renewable energy.  The company estimates a 10 to 1 replacement ratio of fossil fuel to clean energy, saying that 996 megawatts of coal-produced energy would now be 125 megawatts of renewable energy, and is in keeping with Cuomo's pledge to shut down coal-powered plants earlier than his December, 2020 deadline.

Back when Heorot Power Vice President of Development Jerry Goodenough was the Cayuga plant manager he told me he was proud to be able to say that the Cayuga plant was the cleanest coal-fired power plant this side of the Mississippi River, and he hoped to be able to transition to renewable power sources as the technology became viable.  I don't think he envisioned this scenario, but it represents a full realization of that dream.  Reportedly the reason the Cayuga Solar project hasn't gotten off the ground is that it couldn't line up customers or state assistance.  Now the company will be its own customer, generating up to about 15% of the energy it will need to power the data center and getting the rest from the largest (by water flow volume) waterfall in the United States.

So the question is, will Albany put its money where its mouth is?  If Cuomo is serious about clean energy and helping communities with closing power plants recover, he needs to back the 125 megawatt renewable energy allocation the company is applying for, and Empire State Development funding that helps closing power plants pay for re-use of electrical equipment.  And what about the recovery assistance for communities that suffer the closing of power plants?

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton worked hard to get that funding established, but Lansing didn't qualify because the plant was still open.  Now it's closing, and even if all goes without a hitch it will likely take years before the new venture's tax valuation rises.  So, as Cuba Gooding Jr. famously said in the 1996 film, 'Jerry Maguire', "Show me the money!"

Because this can be a big win for Governor Cuomo, a big win for New York State, a big win for the company, and a huge win for Lansing and Tompkins County.

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