An Ithaca developer, with the endorsement of some alternative-energy activists, is exploring building a wind farm in Enfield near Connecticut Hill.
Right now, the project’s feasibility, as well as a specific site plan, will depend on wind energy results obtained from a meteorological test tower, which is being erected, according to John Rancich, who will be the wind energy’s developer.
Specifics regarding a project proposal, including the total number of turbines, are not known at this time, Rancich said. He did however, say the wind turbines will likely be 2-megawatts in size, around 400 feet at the highest tip of the blade, and encompass 600 acres.
Rancich also will be the company’s main investor. So far, he’s incurred anywhere from $50,000 to $500,000 of the project’s costs and has been studying other wind energy farms.
“My hope is to have an operating wind farm in the southwest corner of Enfield,” he said. “I’ve been going to every national or international wind energy symposium … My hope is to have a community-based wind energy company.”
But some community members who live or have property near the site are not very welcoming of the proposal. Cliff Newhart lives on Black Oak Road near the site where a test tower is being installed. Newhart said he believes a wind farm would spoil the view. He also thinks it wouldn’t be good for wildlife and can create noise for neighbors.
Betsy Allen, also a resident on Black Oak Road, was specifically concerned that wind turbines may decrease her property value.
“I just don’t want it in my front yard,” she said. “It needs to be in an area where there are no residents. I think there needs to be more studies on what’s going on. He went to our neighbors and asked them to sign papers and show them they support these. He went to everyone except for the people on Black Oak Road.”
Not everyone agrees.
“A year ago we prepared a model municipal ordinance for utility scale wind energy,” said Stephen Nicholson, who is chairman of the Tompkins County Environmental Management Council. “The Environmental Management Council believes suitably sited wind turbines are an increasingly necessary way to combat the adverse impacts of climate change.”
Forum tonight at IC
Rancich will be part of a panel discussion about the proposed wind farm from 5-7 p.m. tonight at Ithaca College.
The discussion will be hosted by the Tompkins Renewable Energy Education Alliance, which describes itself as “a group of educators and activists dedicated to educating our community about our energy options and their financial, social and environmental costs.”
The panel will include scientists from Ithaca College, a member of the Tompkins County Environmental Management Council, Cornell University’s energy manager and a representative of the Sierra Club.
Panelists will address issues such as land property values near wind farms, visual impacts, bird and noise impacts, community-ownership, compensation, investment scenarios and other concerns or questions posed by the audience.
John Confer, a biology professor at Ithaca College who specializes in animal ecology and ornithology, will be one of the panelists. Confer endorses wind farms as a way to reduce use of fossil fuels and the resulting greenhouse gases linked to climate change and global warming.
While wind farms can kill birds, the numbers of birds affected are a fraction of those killed by cars, plate-glass windows, hunters, cats, habitat loss and climate change, Confer said. He’s written “dozens of papers and hundreds of grant proposals” on preserving bird species but is convinced measures such as wind power, even with its drawbacks, are necessary.
“In comparison to the alternatives, wind power, by an order of magnitude, is the better source of energy,” he said.
Looking into the future, Nicholson also noted there are more than 100 coal-fired plants scheduled to be built in the United States to keep up with demand for electricity.
Rancich said that if enough interest is generated in the community and a project is proposed, then the town and county can partake in some of the financial benefits.
“It’s the community using through a developer’s hands, an idea and ambition that will allow them to realize income somewhere separate from just taxing their members.”
In the future, Rancich said the Town of Enfield may own the potential wind farm, through Payment in Lieu of Taxes payments. He did not disclose how many leaseholders – that are in close proximity to the potential site – have signed an agreement.
By Michelle King
David Hill contributed to this report.
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