CLAYTON – No town should proceed with wind farm development without careful consideration, research and a zoning law that regulates wind towers, participants were told at an informational meeting Thursday.
The Wind Power Ethics Group, a citizens organization that has opposed wind farm development in Cape Vincent, organized the meeting. Just under 200 people attended, according to organizers.
There are three wind farms proposed in northern Jefferson County. The St. Lawrence Wind Farm and Cape Vincent Wind Farm are both proposed in Cape Vincent, and the Horse Creek Wind Farm is proposed in Clayton.
The audience listened to presentations from Keith D. Pitman, president and CEO of Empire State Wind Energy; James P. Fayle, executive director of the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency; Bradley E. Jones, a resident of Italy in Yates County who opposes wind power, and Paul E. Carr, a professor of engineering at Cornell University, Ithaca.
Mr. Carr’s presentation, which centered on zoning issues, particularly sound, was met with an enthusiastic round of applause. Mr. Carr said he likes wind turbines.
“I think they’re beautiful,” he said. “That’s going to upset some people because I know they don’t like the looks of wind turbines.”
Mr. Carr said turbines may be good for a community, but it is a municipality’s responsibility to give developers regulations that will protect all people, including those who are participating in the project.
“Right now, Cape Vincent doesn’t have a zoning law,” Mr. Carr said. “You have a draft zoning law. I suggest you talk to your town and make sure you have a zoning law.”
The Cape Vincent Town Council did not vote last year on its proposed zoning law amendment for wind towers. The council promised to do an environmental review before the law was accepted, then decided the review would be too expensive.
Mr. Carr said it is important to place sound restrictions of no more than five decibels above ambient sound at property lines. Ambient sound in rural communities can be less than 30 decibels, he said.
Mr. Carr played a tape recording of what 50 decibels of a working turbine sounds like. With the crowd quiet, the whooshing hum was clearly heard.
Mr. Pitman explained how wind farm development works from a company’s point of view. He said most wind farm developers expect a 27 percent rate of return on their investments. He said municipalities should know how much a company plans to make on a proposed project when negotiating financial arrangements. Local municipalities are allowed to tax turbines.
He also stressed that the wind development industry is an extremely risky business. A large percentage of proposed wind farms never come to fruition, he said.
“Until there’s a wind farm, there’s not a wind farm,” Mr. Pitman said.
Mr. Fayle briefly spoke about payments in lieu of taxes. He said PILOT negotiations cannot begin until the state environmental review process for a project is complete.
Mr. Jones said he is concerned that wind power companies’ claims about helping the environment are deliberately misleading.
Publication: Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, NY)
Publication date: 08/24/2007
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