Windmills could be spinning in nearly half of Madison County’s towns by next summer if two major developments get off the ground this winter.
West Hill Windpower hopes to plant 25 windmills in Stockbridge and Smithfield and connect to a transmission line in Lincoln. Construction on the $40 million to $60 million project is slated to start in the spring, said Todd Hopper, project manager.
It’s the second project in the planning stages. Citizens Airtricity Energy is working on a 3,500-acre wind farm spanning Eaton, Madison and Stockbridge as well as Augusta, in Oneida County. The 23-turbine project has been under discussion since spring 2005.
If both projects go through, the number of windmills in Madison County would more than double. In Fenner, 20 turbines are spinning on a wind farm that was built a year after seven went up in Madison.
The numbers pale in comparison to some projects in the North Country. AES-Acciona Energy, the parent company overseeing the West Hill wind farm, is working on a 109-turbine project in Clinton County near Plattsburgh. And 120 windmills have gone up on the Tug Hill Plateau in the last year.
But developers continue to be attracted to the hills of Madison County, which have been fertile grounds thanks to good wind resources and receptive municipalities, said Jack Miller, county planning chief.
“There’s a possibility for future development,” he said.
Some turbine projects have been in the works for months, but others have been blowing in the wind for years. Windmills first appeared on the Fenner Planning Board agenda in 1998; the turbines didn’t start cranking out electricity until November 2001. Developer David Senehi has been working with the Fenner Planning Board since late 2004 to put five windmills on his 100-acre farm.
The delays aren’t unusual, Miller said, because negotiations with municipalities take time.
“You don’t just rubber-stamp it,” said Fenner Supervisor Russ Cary. “Every site is individual. They are crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s and trying to put in a real positive site.”
The West Hill Wind project is just starting the permitting process with each township; Citizens Airtricity Energy has all the permits it needs.
“We’re wrapping up all the odds and ends on the project to get in position to start next year,” said project manager Doug Colbeck.
Wind energy projects haven’t been as well received in Cazenovia, where officials passed a law in July placing a moratorium on windmills and cell phone towers. Town Supervisor Liz Moran said the town board hopes to meet with New York State Energy Research and Development Authority soon to discuss the issues.
“We don’t want to keep (windmills) out,” Moran said. “We want to find where in the town would be best, that wouldn’t interfere with the other things we value.”
By Alaina Potrikus
Alaina Potrikus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 470-3252.