A company planning to build a series of wind turbines across the high altitude farmland in northern Potter County says there may be fewer of the machines than originally planned.
Regardless of how many turbines are in the project, citizens who testified at a public hearing on the AES Corporation proposal on July 15 were overwhelmingly opposed to it.
An overflowing crowd turned out at the Ulysses Township Board of Supervisors meeting to comment on the Fox Hill Wind Energy Project, prompting the board to switch the venue to the firehall in Ulysses.
Bob White, project manager for AES, said the company had originally planned to erect 1.5-megawatt machines. However, a new plan that’s under consideration calls for larger turbines capable of generating 2.5 megawatts.
If that occurs, there will be 46 turbines built, rather than 55.
“That decision has not been made,” White told the Ulysses crowd. “It isn’t going to be made until fairly close to construction . . . As we get more information about wind, noise studies and other aspects, sizes can change, turbines can be moved and wind direction can determine how far apart the turbines need to be.”
Another revealing aspect of the July 15 hearing was the acknowledgment that AES will pay Ulysses Township an annual stipend if the project moves forward.
Township officials adopted their own Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance, effectively blocking more stringent regulations approved by the county. Now, the township is negotiating for payments from AES as part of a “host community agreement.”
Steve Tanner, representing the engineering firm retained by the township to review the AES project plan, discussed that process.
“Your supervisors are working real hard here for the host benefit package, to have your township taxes reduced or eliminated,” Tanner said. “That agreement has not been signed and there are some differences between the developer and the township.”
White explained that the pact includes a provision allowing the use of Ulysses Township roads for transportation of turbine parts and other equipment.
“We have been in discussion with the township about a host community agreement that has other things in it, including monetary benefits,” White said. “I’m not at liberty to talk about what those amounts are.”
A parade of Ulysses Township citizens took turns telling Supervisors Marc Bennett, Claude Seely and Jim Hoopes why they opposed the AES plan. Hoopes has recused himself from voting on the application because he is leasing property to AES for turbine construction.
“We’ve talked about money to the township – I don’t worship money,” PLAN said Arthur Kear, whose home is adjacent to the Hoopes property. “I worship the beautiful area that I live in. You’ve placed at least four of these turbines right on top of my home.”
Kear said the noise intrusion on his property and other neighbors will be unbearable.
“No resident of this township should be sacrificed for this wind turbine project, and there are dozens who are going to be directly affected,” said another speaker, who did not identify himself.
Leo Szczesny, from Sweden Township, said the installation of turbines would damage the rural character of the region.
“I think you should find a more suitable area for these because this is a natural, beautiful area,” Szczesny noted. “We don’t have a lot of wind (and) I know the noise effects would be horrible for anyone near the turbines.”
Not everyone was opposed to the plan. Wendy Erickson said she attended the hearing to voice support for AES’s project.
“I hear a lot of people talking about money and things like that, but what about the other benefits like cleaner, better energy for our future and our country?”
Dan Howe of Gold asked the supervisors to postpone action: “The decision that you’re making here will affect our lives, our children’s lives and our grandchildren’s lives. You’re about to change our lifestyle for the next 30 years. I beg you to wait, because my family will be affected by what you do for the rest of our lives.”
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