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HAMMOND – While the Hammond Wind Committee spent its 25th meeting since April discussing economics, tourism and environmental issues – with no formal action – it did revisit a wind energy issue Tuesday that committee members find extremely important: the decommissioning process.
With Iberdrola Renewables, Inc.’s proposal to erect a large-scale industrial wind farm in Hammond over the next few years, paying to make such a project disappear at the end of its service life or if the unit is out of commission is something that must seriously be considered and ensured, according to committee member Allen P. Newell.
Mr. Newell has been involved in the wind energy discussion in Hammond for several years. Also a member of the town’s original wind committee that had finished its work in mid-2008, he has advocated educating the public and was the original vice-president of Concerned Residents of Hammond.
On Tuesday, Mr. Newell provided committee members with documentation from several wind committees in New York towns in regards to the decommissioning issue, specifically, from the towns of Bethany, Rensselaerville, Hartsville and Litchfield. He additionally distributed a West Virginia-based article by Tom Hewson, principal of Energy Ventures Analysis, Va., on the lessons learned from wind decommissioning costs.
The current version of Hammond’s wind energy facilities law, under moratorium until July 27, contains a three-bullet section 20, “Abatement,” that says in part A, “If any WECS remains non-functional or inoperative for a continuous period of 1 year, the applicant agrees that, without any further action by the Town Planning Board, it shall remove said system at its own expense.
“Removal of the system shall include at least the entire above ground structure, including transmission equipment and fencing, from the property. This provision shall not apply if the applicant demonstrates to the Town that it has been making good faith efforts to restore the WECS to an operable condition, but nothing in this provision shall limit the Town Planning Board’s ability to order a remedial action plan after public hearing.”
The current law also states that non-function is determined by the state Public Service Commission, NYSERDA or by “lack of income generation”, proven because the law also requires an applicant to make available to the town planning board “all reports to and from the purchaser of energy from individual WECS, if requested…”.
The third and final bullet of the current law (C), calls for a decommissioning bond or fund.
“The applicant, or successors, shall continuously maintain a fund or bond payable to the Town for the removal of all non-functional towers and appurtenant facilities in an amount to be determined by the Town for the period of the life of the facility.
“This fund may consist of a letter of credit from a State of New York-licensed financial institution. All costs of the financial security shall be borne by the applicant. All decommissioning funding requirements shall be met prior to the commencement of construction.”
Several committee members, including Mr. Newell and Dr. Stephen D. Sarfaty, called much of the language in the current version of the law ambiguous and vague, and suggested tightening the language up to cover more specific details and/or situations, such as annual escalation in decommissioning costs; the degree to which property, roadways and the viewscape are to be restored; and the final disposition of clean-up of both overhead and underground transmission lines.
Other issues touched upon in the decommissioning documentation provided by Mr. Newell include addressing ownership changes and the transfer of bond money; time restraints; re-vegetating the native landscape; participating landowner’s responsibilities upon decommissioning; and restoring roadways and other travel corridors.
The committee meets again on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the village hall, at which time Frederick A. Proven, committee member, will discuss his report on project management. Richard K. Champney and Ronald R. Papke are working on a formal recommendation on suggested setback distances and Mr. Newell will finalize his recommendations concerning the decommissioning process. Also on the agenda will be conflict resolution and sound issues, according to Rudolph A. Schneider, chairman.
Other scheduled meetings for the month include Jan. 17, at which time Mr. Schneider, Mr. Papke and Mr. Newell are expected to have finished a committee report on potential economic impacts of wind energy development coming to Hammond; and Jan. 24, when the committee anticipates finalizing its recommendations to the town board.
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