There was plenty of criticism from Southern Tier residents Monday night during an informational meeting about a planned wind turbine project for the towns of Arcade, Centerville, Farmersville, Freedom and Rushford.
Invenergy, a Chicago-based wind power generation company, wants to erect some 100 turbines across the high hills of Allegany and Cattaraugus counties by 2020 - a project that its Business Development Director, Eric Miller, says will generate enough power for 147,000 homes a year and pay out nearly $8 million a year to the towns. Miller said that breaks down to $1 million would be to the 12-14 employees needed to operate the turbines, $2.77 million would be to landowners and $3.2 million would be in tax-related payments.
"There are two main mechanisms by which money gets paid," Miller said. "The first one is a pilot agreement. This is an agreement that we would execute with the county Industrial Development Agency. The way that pilot agreements work is a little bit complicated. We would sign an agreement to pay so much per megawatt and then based on where that turbine is, the money that is paid for that turbine is split up to the schools and the county and the town proratively from the tax rate for that parcel."
Miller spoke at an informational meeting in Farmersville, saying there are two myths being circulated in flyers to area residents: the wind payments would go down over time and the payments would depend on the performance of the turbines.
"Both of those are not true," Miller said. "We're proposing fixed numbers that will be based on the megawatts that are installed. That's not a performance number, that's basically by the size of the turbine, the generating capacity of the turbine. So when the project is set, people would know the payments and those payments would go up over time. There's actually escalation provisions. That means the numbers would get bigger every year."
Miller also noted the wind project established in Wyoming County by Invenergy, although smaller than what is proposed for Allegany and Cattaraugus counties. In total, however, Wyoming County has four wind farms with 237 turbines generating power, according to the Wyoming County Business Center.
One resident who said he lives on Route 20A in Sheldon in Wyoming County with a wind turbine "about two-and-a-half times" from his farm house window said he likes the aesthetic look of the turbine as part of the landscape and, from his experience, "there's more noise from the road than the turbine," "unequivocally the wildlife is not affected" and there have been no problems with groundwater. The audience shouted him down when he said Invenergy told him about the meeting.
Citizen groups have adopted the slogan "Don't Blight. Fight" in opposition to the project and have been calling for a number of setbacks before the turbines could be approved.
Farmersville United President Pete Loundbury said his group of 20 members is not fighting green energy or the value of the project.
"Rather our most pressing concern is that the guidelines and laws for the development and installation of this project, which are currently under consideration by various town and village board officials should be the most up-to-date and safest for our land, our environment and our citizens."
Other residents took to the microphone to talk about the safety of the turbines, liability for accidents, excessive noise from the turbines and the obstructive view from the huge structures on their farmland.
"I can't help but think that this scheme is based on downstate politicians telling us we're not green enough," said Farmerville resident Bill Snyder. "I would tell you, this town, the Southern Tier, Cattaraugus County, is green. It might be loud because the spring peepers are so loud. Maybe you'll get interrupted by coyotes howling at one another from one hill to the next. An industrial development does not fit the Southern Tier in this area. We buy properties - farms, camps - because we want to get away from the city. We don't want to live, hunt, fish under wind turbines and their noise."
David Putnam read a letter on behalf of 15 Amish families living in Farmersville that listed half a dozen concerns.
"Number 1, the life of our soil, including earthworms. We can't grow a healthy crop without a living soil," Putnam said. "Number 2, safety. We've heard of ice chunks flying the distance from the turbines. Sounds dangerous. Heavy construction traffic on the roads with our horse and buggies may not mix well for the safety of our children. Number 3, liability. Concerns came up about oil spills spreading over our land and us being responsible for cleanup under state regulation. If the turbines fail or things go wrong, we would not want to be responsible for the structure."
Putnam also voiced concerns about lower property values, property damage because of turbine construction, the need for a 3,000-foot setback to guide placement of turbines. He said the Amish community also is religiously opposed to wind turbines.
However, Town of Freedom farmer Dan Shannon said over the years he has been approached by oil and gas companies wanting to drill on his land, but he has turned them down. Shannon said he is in favor of clean energy and the farmers who need the income.
"I don't have a windmill. I'm not getting a windmill. I'm fortunate I don't happen to need that for retirement income, but consider your neighbors," Shannon said. "These are very poor, some of the poorest communities in the state of New York, and you want to deny an income that goes to the schools - and it does, every windmill provides income for the schools - and in the Town of Freedom there is income provided directly to the town. How do we replace that?"