JORDANVILLE – More than 60 400-foot-high wind turbines along the landscape weren’t part of the plan when the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Monastery was founded more than 75 years ago, monastery officials say.
The few-hundred acre spiritual retreat settled where it did because of the area’s isolation and beautiful landscape, and an “army” of turbines from the proposed Jordanville Wind project are not welcome, said the Rev. Luke Murianka, deputy abbot of the monastery.
“This would greatly affect our whole mission here,” Murianka said.
If negotiations regarding a payment in lieu of taxes agreement are worked out, construction for the 68 wind turbines could begin in spring 2008, said Eric Blank, executive vice president in charge of U.S. development for Community Energy, the Iberdrola USA company behind the Jordanville project.
Blank hopes company representatives can talk with members of the monastery and try to address their concerns, he said.
“We think we’ll work out our differences with the monastery,” he said. “We don’t think they’ll be an obstacle.”
Murianka said the majority of people at the monastery are against the project, while some people don’t have an opinion. Murianka said no one he spoke to is in favor of it, he said.
Although the main concern Murianka has is visual disruption the turbines could cause, blinking lights and possible sound-related or environmental problems also are concerns, he said.
The project also would affect the Community of St. Elizabeth the New Martyr and the Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary, which is located on the campus and educates students from all over the world, said Murianka, who also is the dean of the seminary.
The Community of St. Elizabeth the New Martyr is a covenant of four nuns who live on the monastery property.
This community supports itself and tries to stay isolated from the rest of the world – only occasionally taking female visitors, said Mother Barbara Dowbnia of the covenant.
“This has a deep, deep effect, and it’s going to ruin the landscape” Dowbnia said. “Even if you close your eyes, you’ll be able to feel them, to sense them.”
A lot of what they do involves looking within themselves, she said.
“You can’t do it when you’re being bombarded with strobe lights,” she said. “That’s kind of like disco stuff.”
Dowbnia believes finding alternative forms of energy is important and isn’t against wind turbines, she said.
“But there are just other places to put them,” she said.
Jordanville resident Joseph Sarafin, who isn’t opposed to the wind project, thinks the residents of the monastery will be able to co-exist with the turbines.
“I think it’ll be all right,” he said.
Community Energy plans to attain seeker permits this spring, resolve the tax issues this summer and begin construction in spring 2008, Blank said.
“We’re pushing forward with all speed,” he said.
Herkimer County Administrator James Wallace said nothing new has taken place with negotiations with the wind developers. Herkimer County is waiting to hear back from the developers, Wallace said.
The last reported payment in lieu of taxes offer from the county asked the wind developers to pay about $12,000 per megawatt based on a set price and a percentage of profits.
By Bryon Ackerman
24 April 2007
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