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Monks gain support in fight over wind project

Historic preservationists say Mohawk Valley turbines would disrupt serenity of monastic life

JORDANVILLE – The sky above this rolling Mohawk Valley farmland is a battleground between golden onion-shaped domes of the nation’s largest Russian Orthodox monastery and sweeping wind turbine towers intended to harvest clean power.

On Friday, a statewide historic preservation group sided with Holy Trinity Monastery of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, where monks fear a proposed wind farm a mile away will disturb contemplative religious life.

“The monastery is of extraordinary historic, religious and cultural significance, but it is currently threatened,” said Jay DiLorenzo, President of the Preservation League of New York State. The group named the monastery as one of its seven historic sites statewide in need of protection.

If built, the Jordanville Wind Project, located about 85 miles west of Albany, could have as many as 49 wind turbines on private land that would generate enough power for up to 60,000 homes.

Last month, state Supreme Court Justice Donald Greenwood blocked the project because the towns of Stark and Warren issued approval permits without adequately considering potential environmental impacts.

Father Luke Murianka, deputy abbott for the monastery, in a press statement called the site “a place of immeasurable importance” for the church. A message left at the monastery seeking comment was not returned.

Russian-speaking monks, along with seminary students and lay workers, run a publishing house, an icon-painting studio, a library and a historical museum with pre-Russian Revolution artifacts.

Turning rotor blades will “cause the sunlight to flicker, and the hub of the turbine will make a high-pitched whine. At night, 24 blinking red lights will fill the sky facing the monastery, and the serenity that the monks and pilgrims have long sought will be gone, quite literally, with the wind,” said Tania Werbizky, league regional director of Technical and Grant Programs for western New York.

Wind power advocates say opponents are overblowing the impact of windmills on the 80-year-old religious community.

Paul Copleman, a spokesman for project developer Iberdrola Renewable Energies USA & Community Energy, said six proposed wind turbines were voluntarily removed from the project.

After an 18-month state environmental quality review, the towns of Warren and Stark, Herkimer County and State of New York Public Service Commission approved the project without noting any potential impacts to the monastery, he said.

By Brian Nearing
Staff Writer

Albany Times Union

5 January 2008