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Large wind farm may come to Pomfret  

Never mind the presidential election in 2008. For town of Pomfret residents, the main focus may be on 2010.

With the New Grange Wind Energy Conversion System (WECS) project moving along well in the town of Arkwright, Horizon Wind Energy will now begin the process to connect with it the town of Pomfret, and a proposed 20-30 wind turbine farm.

Horizon Wind Energy Project Manager Tom Stebbins was on hand to present to Pomfret officials Thursday night the updated plans of the Arkwright project and the proposed plans for the town of Pomfret.

He began with the submission of possible MET tower applications this summer. The exciting news according to Stebbins however, is the fact Pomfret and Arkwright will be joining two wind farms under one central substation within the town of Pomfret.

“Electrical is the big news. The substation that we have planned on the corner of Route 83 and Route 60 – in the southeast corner – can now be used to bring in the power from Pomfret which is incredibly exciting and helps us in terms of being ready to do this very quickly,” he said. “Substation construction for the New Grange project is expected in 2009, made with a spot for Pomfret to plug-in essentially.”

The ability to utilize one substation will save the company millions and bring the possibility for a Pomfret wind farm that much closer to reality.

“Locally, more and more landowners are choosing Horizon … and we are well positioned to construct a Pomfret wind farm in 2010,” Stebbins said. “In Pomfret we’ll hopefully submit something in the Fall, they’ll review that and nominate themselves lead agency on the project and then they begin the process for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).”

The incredibly thick binder of researched information has already been created and continues to be worked on for the New Grange project in Arkwright. The last day to comment on those findings is today, May 30.

“It may have seemed like things in Arkwright moved forward very quickly, but from our perspective they are only just beginning. We have wetland crews out there now, cultural crews that will be out there probably next week digging for archeological resources and test pits,” Stebbins said. “We would hope this (New Grange) will be up at the end of 2009 and then we would hope Pomfret will be up by the end of 2010.”

The proposed project in Pomfret, according to Stebbins, would lie within a border south of Webster Road, north of Bacheller Hill Road, east roughly being Route 60 and west being the National Grid 230 electrical line.

“The area along the lake is windy and I’ve certainly had a lot of landowners come to me and say we want a wind farm and we’d like to be a part of it. This area is a bird flyway. There’s a lot of bird activity here,” Stebbins said as to the reason for the cut-off. “The proposed Pomfret layout is looking at 20-30 turbines in higher areas. We use existing gas wells and roads wherever possible. Our proposed project area is relatively small and I think that’s in part because we’ve been working here a long time and we’re very familiar with the realities of the area.”

The 20-30 wind turbine total will be dependent on megawattage of the unit, whether Horizon uses 1.5,1.8 megawatt units or that of another. For the New Grange project, no more then 80 megawatts can be created from their proposed 47 turbine farm. That project was proposed using a 1.8 unit (in case some were declined), if all are approved that would lower that total to 44. The total number of units will also affect the financial benefit received from each farm.

The going rate is $8,000 per megawatt, essentially $640,000 per year in revenue for the New Grange project. The amount the host community receives, and those involved in the PILOT agreement receives, is dependent on how the town and IDA decide to split the revenue. The same will go for the town of Pomfret should a farm be constructed.

“We know now we’re going to be looking at a positive project coming in, of a size we don’t know,” said Pomfret Planning Board chairman Jim Joy who, with the board, will be looking to incorporate WECS into the creation of a comprehensive plan. “This is a major multi-million dollar project coming in.”

Other officials on hand Thursday were also pleased with the overall presentation by Stebbins.

“He answered a lot of questions well and he had information I didn’t know anything about the fact they are that close to getting the substation built and they have a lot more people signing up it sounds like. It’s encouraging,” said Councilman Rod Pennica. “I’m pro wind. For a long time I was on the fence. I still think it’s imperfect, but I think it’s going to be a long-term benefit for the town.”

Stebbins did post constraints for building in Pomfret which included the local wind resource, the local topography, parcel sizes, competing land uses and the bird and bat flyways. And although there are far fewer questions now then there were when the town worked to create WECS zoning, the ‘don’t know until you try mentality’ may still exist.

“There are always concerns because there’s always the law of unintended consequences,” Pennica said. “I think I’m prepared to accept whatever comes along and I think these guys have been at it long enough and are willing to show us existing projects. If they were nightmares or catastrophes I think they wouldn’t. I’m pretty well satisfied with what I’m hearing.”

Stebbins said he will be creating a layout, continue signing the remaining lease agreements and will begin studies for the DEIS in the town of Pomfret. The town of Pomfret will also be involved when the town of Arkwright begins work on the PILOT agreement.

By Michael Rukavina

Observer Today

30 May 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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