Nearly 50 years ago…Western New York first began using the mighty waters of the Niagara River to produce electricity. Now some communities are turning to wind as the next natural source of energy. But a proposed windmill project in Wyoming County continues to stir up debate.
Not much has changed in the Town of Sheldon in the past 200 years. The land was first settled by farmers…and it’s farmers who are at the forefront of the next development. Paul Kirsch, farmer: “To me the windmills are another crop. We’re just harvesting the wind.”
An Illinois company wants to put up 86 wind mills in Sheldon…each nearly 400 feet tall…producing enough total electricity to power 60 thousand homes a year. Landowners like farmer Paul Kirsch would receive up to $5,000 in lease payments for each windmill located on their property. “They’re talking about a quarter of an acre for each turbine. I can’t grow anything on there that will come near that the windmill will turn out.”
But not everyone is as thrilled with the proposed project. Opponents point to noise generated by the turbines. Eric Miller, Project Manager, Invenergy: “Wind turbines make a slight swishing sound as the blades go through the air. It’s a background sound, the further you are from the turbine the less you hear.” Miller says they’ve designed the project such that noise should not be an issue. “That’s a subjective thing. Again, we’re trying to do everything we can through the review process to make sure that there’s a rational approach to reviewing that question.”
Opponents also point to the blades’ flickering shadows. Miller believes that won’t be a problem, with the windmills spaced about a thousand feet from any residence. “The good thing about shadows is you can predict exactly where a shadow will fall. It’s just a function of where the sun is and the time of day and the time of year.”
And every year, the town of Sheldon would get nearly 800 thousand dollars in revenue from the windmills…more than its annual budget. Kirsch: “It’s going to be good for everybody, the town the people and the farmers.”
The Town Board still has to Okay the final environmental impact statement and zoning permits. If the necessary approvals are granted, the windmills could be up and running by November, 2007.
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