The Jordanville Wind Project’s 68 proposed wind turbines, which would stand nearly 400 feet tall, could have a visual impact on southern Herkimer County and as far away as Cooperstown.
A debate is emerging among residents about how the sight of the turbines would affect the beauty of the landscape, land values and tourism. Some think the impact will be small or nonexistent, while others believe there could be many downsides.
People visit the Cooperstown area not just for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, other museums and tourist attractions, but also for the scenic views, said Harry Levine of a citizens’ group called Advocates for Springfield.
“I think we have to be very careful how we treat this background landscape because it could have a long-term effect on tourism,” Levine said.
With three proposed wind projects on the table, Herkimer County could be in for many changes depending on how negotiations fare over proposed payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements with project developers.
The Jordanville Wind Project’s visual impact has received extra attention because of the project’s visibility from Cooperstown, Otsego Lake, the Route 20 Scenic Byway and historic districts including the Glimmerglass Historic District.
Jordanville Wind Project’s developers are putting information out there and letting the public decide, said Skip Brennan, state director of development of Community Energy, an Iberdrola company.
Iberdrola recently purchased Community Energy and is in the process of merging with ScottishPower. ScottishPower owns PPM Energy, the developer for the wind project in the northeastern Herkimer County town of Fairfield.
The merge could mean one company running the wind projects in Fairfield and Jordanville, which is in the south-central part of Herkimer County.
By providing information and putting visual simulations on its Web site at www.newwind energy.com/windfarm_jordanville/ index.html, the company is hoping people will make up their own minds, Brennan said.
“We’re sensitive to the visual impact of the project,” he said. “It seems as though the local populous in general is receiving the project with open arms.”
Research conducted in Europe shows that people are often resistant to the changes involved with wind projects but gain positive feelings once the turbines are operating and making electricity, he said.
Having wind turbines in sight could be hard to accept at first but isn’t necessarily a bad thing because renewable energy is the future, he said.
“We might have to see how our power is made,” he said, “which is a change.”
Jordanville resident Gwen Miner lives about two miles from where one of the turbines would be installed.
She approves of renewable sources of energy but has concerns about the roadways that will be built, potential wildlife problems, maintenance issues and what would happen if the company stops using the turbines, she said.
“I have mixed feelings about them,” she said.
3 top concerns
The pros and cons need to be discussed as a community before the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce takes a position, Executive Director Polly Renckens said.
Levine, of Advocates for Springfield, said he has three major concerns with the turbines’ visual impact:
“¢The night impact of the 32 red lights that would flash in synchronization more than 250 feet in the air: Reducing the number of lights or attaching shields to focus the lights upward are desirable options, Levine said.
“¢Too many turbines in one stretch of horizon: There should be a limit on how many turbines can be seen in one view to preserve the sense of the natural landscape, he said.
“¢Interference with historic views: The view looking north up Otsego Lake from Cooperstown toward Mount Wellington is the picture most people take when visiting Cooperstown and would be affected by the turbines, he said.
He also wonders how they would affect tourism and property values, but it’s hard to know because there isn’t much objective, historical evidence, he said.
Many people buy their homes in the Cooperstown area for the rural landscape, said Martha Frey, Otsego 2000 citizens’ group executive director.
“I think some people may not want to see the project from their homes,” she said.
Although not against wind power, Frey would like to see turbines moved and the project downsized to lessen the visual and cultural impacts on historic districts, she said.
“I think certainly it does affect the scenic beauty of the region,” she said.
Favoring clean power
Jordanville resident Ricky Farley has seen wind turbines in Madison and said he doesn’t feel worried that some might soon be near his home, he said.
“I think we ought to seek cleaner, cheaper power,” Farley said. “I think it’s a good idea.”
Tulsa Wikoff and Rosemary McCarthy, office managers at the Lake Front Motel on Otsego Lake in Cooperstown, are in favor of the projects despite the fact the turbines could be visible from the motel, they said.
Wikoff, who saw drawings of how the turbines would look from the motel, might feel differently if she lived closer to the proposed sites, she said.
“From here, it’s not going to make a difference,” she said.
McCarthy drew a parallel to wind turbines on Hawaiian mountains. The turbines don’t detract from the beauty but do provide the island with necessary energy, McCarthy said.
“We actually think renewable energy is a good thing for the future,” she said.
Before Jordanville Wind or any other such projects move forward in Herkimer County, negotiations with government-related agencies must be completed.
By Bryon Ackerman
26 February 2007
About the negotiations
Herkimer County, towns and wind developers have yet to come to an agreement on a payment in lieu of taxes plan that would allow wind turbines to be built.
Representatives of the wind developers and Herkimer County said they expect terms to be reached at the end of the tough negotiations.
The last payment in lieu of taxes offer discussed had the wind developers paying about $12,000 per megawatt based on a set price and a percentage of profits, but there haven’t been many negotiations recently, Herkimer County Administrator James Wallace said.
There might be a majority of the Herkimer County Legislature willing to offer a better deal than the approximately $12,000 per megawatt rate to the companies but there hasn’t been much discussion lately among the county and the developers, Legislator Dennis Korce said.
“Where we stand now is probably up in the air,” Korce said.
Korce, however, believes something will work out soon, he said.
“I think they feel that we’re in a reasonable range to pursue their purchase,” he said.
— Bryon Ackerman, O-D
26 February 2007
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