Portland shows concern over wind turbines

PORTLAND — A five-wind-turbine proposal was presented to the Portland Town Board Monday afternoon with activists against the project voicing their concern. Those criticizing the project fear it will have similar impacts as the Arkwright wind project, however, this is the first-ever meeting between the wind turbine company and the town board and nothing was agreed upon.

The five prospective turbines are split with two north of Route 20 and three south. All of them are on flat, no-tree land west of Pecor and Fay streets. The project only has one two-megawatt turbine proposed and the rest are single-megawatts.

Emergya Wind Technology, or EWT, had Charles Karustis, via phone, present the scope of the project with a 13-page slideshow. EWT is based out of Amersfoort in the Netherlands. The first question derived from that: why not buy American?

Karustis stated that though the company is overseas, even the locally based wind turbine developers like GE (General Electric) do not construct their products solely in the United States.

The presentation explained that the size of the turbines will be at a max height of 326 feet, the height to the center of the hub, or where the wings are attached is 226 feet and the rotor or the wing diameter is 200 feet.

The benefit of these turbines, as Karustis said, is that the turbines will generate wind energy, put the energy back into the grid and be sold to area residents at a discounted price of what they already pay for in utilities.“The important thing is people aren’t going to be paying more than what they do now,” Karustis said. “They will be paying less.”

Karustis fielded an assortment of questions. Many coincided with the town of Portland’s ordinance which has a performance of damage bond of $100,000, which protects residents against a faulty or misinformed contract like a wind turbine. The ordinance also has a 1,200-foot setback of any turbine lying near a residence. The decibel limit was also within said ordinance as it was set to no more than 50 decibels for six minutes in any given hour.

Diane Clark, a Portland resident, was blunt with her comments and wanted honesty back. Her questions aimed at the environmental side of wind turbines.

“I am a tree hugger,” Clark proclaimed. “I don’t just study biology, I love nature. What I am concerned about is when I see the Arkwright project go in, that company came and cut down the trees and everything was ground up, chipped and they didn’t even try to get the value for those trees. … It really disturbs me that that’s what they did.”

Karustis responded that the project did not take away any trees and other environmental questions like the waterflow impact, and how birds/bats will be affected will be studied. The waterflow, however, was something that Karustis noted as vital to the concrete plot the wind turbine sits on. If it intrudes on the waterflow, it would cause later damage to the concrete.

Kevin Powell is a resident who would host land for a wind tower and he supports them. Though he will receive a monetary benefit, he asked the questions to EWT on whether or not it will impact his neighbors. One factor that boosted him to agree was how EWT stood on the flicker effect.

The flicker effect is when the shadow cast from the turbine’s blades continuously creates a flash of dark. So, for his neighbors, Powell worried about this possibility.

“Well, what they assured me is that they (EWT) do — what is called — a flicker study on each of them,” Powell said at the meeting. “They know each day where the sun location is, where the shadow will project. They program them to not rotate if there is a shadow on a (property). That was my biggest concern; I wouldn’t want that on my house, either.”

It’s no secret that EWT, like other clean energy providers trying to enter the Southern Tier, are aiming to utilize the tax incentives. Karustis acknowledged that those credits help make the bottom line more affordable.

“We will be taking advantage of the federal production tax credit, that’s for sure. It’s definitely a help,” he said.

EWT isn’t aiming at just the town of Portland, either. In New York, EWT, and Karustis specifically, had communications with the townships of Martinsburg and Harrisburg and had the same selling points to them: cheaper utilities, smaller turbines and only five turbines as well, the Watertown Daily Times reported on Dec. 17, 2017.

Identical to Portland’s deal, Karustis noted the need of a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement (PILOT) and that the work will minimize any environmental problems.

The town board did not discuss if it was in favor or opposed the construction after the meeting. The Portland Town Board will meet on Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. in the town hall.


JAN 30 2018
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