Organized citizens groups have become a hallmark of sorts for wind tower proposals.
Take the Genesee County town of Alabama as an example. Horizon Wind Energy wants to build approximately 50 turbines on 5,000 acres east of Route 77. Residents formed Wind Information and Responsible Energy (WI+RE) in response.
The members want to provide residents with well-founded, current information on wind power, says Mark Williams, the group’s pro-wind power founder. (Disclosure: Williams owns 122 acres of land in the town and has a lease option with Horizon.)
By providing information from scholars and scientists, the group will help residents draw informed conclusions, he says. It’s also a way to build support for wind energy in Alabama.
Alabama is a rural town of about 1,800 people, located an hour southwest of Rochester. Its vast tracts of farmland are interrupted occasionally by small hamlets or individual homes. It’s a town that could benefit from the turbines, Williams says. Leasing farmland for wind towers is a good way for struggling farmers to make money from their land without subdividing and selling it, he says.
The issues around Alabama’s wind towers are similar to those in other communities addressing wind power. During a January 17 forum organized by WI+RE, residents asked about wind tower safety, the effect on property values, whether the machines are quiet, and how the town might benefit financially. Horizon officials say the town, county, and Oakfield Alabama Central School District could share an annual payment of $500,000.
Residents were also worried about the effect on birds and wildlife. Roughly half of the federal Iroquois Wildlife Refuge is in Alabama and the refuge attracts migratory birds and waterfowl. But panel participants – who appeared to lean in favor of wind power – said cats, cars, or even tall buildings kill more birds than wind towers.
While WI+RE supports wind power, citizen groups in other communities are more adversarial.
Alabama’s neighbor, Oakfield, banned commercial wind turbines. So did two other Genesee County towns, Bethany and Stafford.
On Monroe County’s west side, Iberdrola approached Hamlin officials and residents about building a wind farm on three square miles of land in the northwest part of town. The Hamlin Preservation Group formed in response. Its members are not staunchly anti-wind, but they are locked in a battle with town officials over placement.
Members of the group want regulations to keep turbines a half-mile from homes. After a December town board workshop, it looked like a quarter-mile was the best they’d get. (The town board was scheduled to meet in a workshop on Tuesday, January 22 to further discuss draft regulations.)
While many Alabama residents have questions, those at the meeting seemed to have an open mind about wind power. A Siena Research Institute poll, released in November, said 72 percent of Alabama residents surveyed favor wind development. Town Supervisor Guy Hinkson told the Batavia Daily News that those figures sound about right.
“I think most people are open and willing to look at the benefits of a wind farm to our town,” he told the paper.
By Jeremy Moule
22 January 2008
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