FARMERSVILLE — A proposal to site more than 100 wind turbines, each 600 feet tall, in four towns in northern Cattaraugus and Allegany counties has stirred up residents and environmental groups as a public hearing looms.
The 380-megawatt project by Invenergy, a top U.S. independent wind power generation company, would require 108 or more wind turbines spread across nearly 20,000 acres in the Cattaraugus County towns of Farmersville and Freedom and in Rushford and Centerville in Allegany County. It would power up to 105,000 homes.
Company officials have said they expect to pay about $64 million in landowner payments over 20 years. There would be a limited payment in lieu of taxes to the town, Franklinville School District and Cattaraugus County if the company seeks inducements from the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency. Property taxes and PILOT payments would total about $3 million a year plus $190,000 in fire district payments.
Invenergy’s responses to 265 comments in a Preliminary Scoping Statement was released in March. The comments included questions about noise, vibration, shadow flicker, impact on birds, bats and other wildlife and wetlands, as well as a host of other concerns.
Town officials called a public hearing for 7 p.m. Monday at the Farmersville Fire Hall to get additional public comment.
Citizens groups in the area have questioned the Farmersville Town Board’s decision to use a 2008 wind law in Orleans County’s town of Yates as a model. Farmersville resident Ginger Schroder, an attorney representing citizen groups responding to the Alle-Catt project, urged the town board to review the updated wind laws in Yates, which were passed in response to a wind turbine project proposed by Apex Clean Energy.
The citizen groups have adopted a slogan: “Don’t Blight. Fight.”
Schroder helped create the Alle-Catt Wind Turbine Concerns Facebook Page, where she and others have been posting information regarding the existing wind farm project in Yates.
“All we are asking of our government officials is to adopt updated standards in the Alle-Catt project, such as those developed by the Town of Yates, and to work with the concerned citizens of the impacted communities to ensure this project does not financially devastate our community, or compromise the safety of our land, the security of our environment and the long-term quality of life for our families,” Schroder said.
Freedom United president Stephanie Milks, said she is concerned officials are not creating wind energy laws with appropriate safety regulations and financial protections. It seems, she added, “they are more focused on the funds promised by Invenergy for the development of the Alle-Catt Wind Turbine Project, rather than the potential costs in the quality of life and health of their residents.”
The town was told it could expect an annual host fee of $195,000 based on 15 wind turbines at $13,000 in fees for each one. Eleven jobs would be created for the wind farm, with a manager and 10 wind technicians to maintain the wind turbines.
Pete Lounsbury, a founding member of Farmersville United, said his group is most concerned that laws for the development and installation of the project being considered by officials are up-to-date and “safest for our land, our environment and our citizens.”
“At this point, we are not fighting about the value of the Alle-Catt project in producing ‘green energy,’ nor are we engaging in endless debate on the overall worth of the project,” he said.
Community groups will have informational handouts and a Facebook live video feed will be broadcast for those interested who cannot attend Monday’s public hearing, Schroder said.
However, some opposition may not be wholly based in fact, according to one Farmersville official. In a recent letter to town residents on the town’s website, Farmersville Supervisor Robert Karcher attempted to rebut a number of what he described as false charges leveled against the town board and the Alle-Catt wind project in a “mailer” circulated in the community.
The information Karcher included in his letter was:
- The town had applied for funds to hire an engineer to review Alle-Catt proposals.
- The law was not being drafted in secret, and four public meetings are set to be held before the town board votes on it.
- The town board hasn’t sold any property rights.
- The lease agreements are between property owners and Alle-Catt.
“Please ask questions, educate yourself on wind turbines and attend board meetings,” he wrote. “Please be patient with us. We will not know the answer to every question but we will do our best to get answers.”
Invenergy proposes to build the 120 wind turbines and infrastructure to get the electricity to the grid next year, assuming its application later this year to the state Public Service Commission’s Siting Board is approved. There will be another 12- to 14-month comment period.
Alle-Catt’s tentative construction schedule begins in 2019, with the system being operational in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Invenergy has also developed two wind farms in neighboring Wyoming County: The High Sheldon Wind Farm, with 75 turbines in the town of Sheldon, and the 58-turbine Orangeville Wind Farm in the town of Orangeville.