Wind turbines are no longer a hypothetical debate in Fairfield and Norway.
Now, they’re a reality.
On Jan. 31, the Hardscrabble Wind Farm was put into service.
After several years of discussion about having 37 wind turbines operate in the Herkimer County towns, residents have spent the past couple months learning what’s it’s actually like to live near the turbines, which are 475 feet tall to the top of a blade that is in the 12 o’clock position.
The discussion about whether the turbines are good or bad, however, rages on among people living by the project – and those from Herkimer and Oneida counties who live farther away but see the turbines while driving.
The following is a look at the experiences several people have had living with wind power.
‘All night long, it’s wicked’
No matter where they turn to look outside of their house on Route 170 in Fairfield, Bud and Wava Gross now witness wind power being produced.
They can see 13 turbines from their home, and they’re not happy about it.
“Every window I look out of, I can see four of five of them,” 84-year-old Wava Gross said, before making a circular motion with her hand as she talked about the sounds the turbines make. “And they go ‘flop, flop’ all day, all night.”
One morning during the construction process, the sound from vehicles woke her up early. From 6 to 7 a.m., she stayed in bed and counted 122 vehicles passing by in one hour, she said.
Now that the turbines are operating, the traffic has died down, but the sound from the turbines often keeps her up at night, she said.
“All night long, it’s wicked,” she said. “That’s why we hate them so.”
‘The sound of money’
Donald Dixon, 74, has two wind turbines on his property on Route 170 in Fairfield.
When he hears sounds from the turbines, it just makes him think about the money the project is generating in town, school and county tax agreements – in addition to the payments he receives for having turbines on his property, he said.
“I hear the sound of money paying for things our taxes would have had to,” he said, before repeatedly saying “money” in an exaggerated voice each time he motioned his hand in a circle.
Dennis Kaczeroski, 59, is a town councilman and has three turbines on his beef farm in Fairfield.
At a rate of $8,000 per turbine, per year, Kaczeroski is scheduled to make $480,000 over the course of his 20-year contract with the wind company, and that will help him keep his farm operating. The help was needed, he said.
“I had trouble paying my taxes last year,” he said.
Kaczeroski acknowledges he sometimes hears a “whooshing sound” from the turbines, but it doesn’t bother him, he said.
When the turbines first were erected, even his cows noticed them, he said. From where he and the cows stood, the blades looked like they were coming out of apple trees, and the cows seemed to have confused looks on their faces, Kaczeroski said.
But he and the cows have quickly gotten used to seeing the turbines, he said.
“Now, they’re just part of the landscape,” he said.
‘This is our house’
Vince Depew, 54, lives near multiple wind turbines in Fairfield, and sometimes, he and his wife talk about moving because of them, he said.
Depew doesn’t think that will happen, but he is bothered by the turbines and worries about their effect on his property value. The turbines often sound like jets in the distance, and they can be heard inside or outside of the house, he said.
“There’s really no way to get away from it,” he said. “Are you going to get used to it? Yeah, we’re going to have to. This is our house.”
Depew said he moved there for the country setting, and he argued that every resident in the town should receive direct payments from the wind developer, Iberdrola Renewables.
‘Time will tell’
Jeff and Susan Roche live in a 200-year-old home on Teall Road in Fairfield. Jeff Roche is the town deputy supervisor.
Their house has large columns in the front and an old chicken coup converted into a modern kitchen with the original wooden beams still in place. In the backyard, sits a 475-foot-tall wind turbine.
Susan Roche, 66, said she expected she wouldn’t like to see the turbine on their property, but now that it’s up, she doesn’t have a problem with it.
“I find them very progressive,” she said. “I feel they’re almost elegant in their own way.”
Susan Roche said she doesn’t hear sound from the turbine. She’s not sure whether it will affect the property value if they ever decide to sell the home, she said.
“Only time will tell that,” she said.
Doug Whitfield, 65, lives near where turbines are proposed in the town of Litchfield. That didn’t concern him too much until early February, when he drove toward the Adirondacks and saw the turbines in Fairfield and Norway.
As Whitfield approached views of the mountains he normally took pleasure in, he for the first time saw the massive towers, and it wrenched his heart, he said.
“It just took my breath away,” he said. “It was totally unsettling. It was like a nightmare that didn’t leave me for a long time.”
Whitfield said he rolled down all four windows in his vehicle and listened to the sound from the turbines. He looked at the houses with decks, lawn furniture and grills designed for enjoying the scenery and thought about the impact the turbines would have.
“It was never really going to be the same after that,” he said.
The feeling Whitfield got from looking at the turbines was similar to how he feels when watching a movie about the world ending, he said.
“This was like from another planet,” he said.
‘Amazed and fascinated’
Keith DeStefanis, of Holland Patent, understands if residents near the wind turbines have noise concerns.
“I’m not so convinced on the argument that they are ugly eyesores,” he said. “In fact, I am amazed and fascinated at the sight of windmills so much to where I can’t get close enough or keep my eyes off of them. They intrigue me in so many ways – from the pure engineering feat to the ability of humans to harness wind to make energy that will in the end help lessen our footprint left on this great planet.”
DeStefanis, who normally sees the turbines while traveling on Route 29 from Middleville to Salisbury, looks at the turbines as symbols of clean energy, he said. Wind power seems like a positive alternative when compared to the fears from other forms of energy such as oil spills, nuclear meltdowns, mining accidents and hydraulic fracturing, he said.
Herkimer resident Tom Reilly takes a “pleasure ride” at least a couple days per week past Little Falls and north toward the Hardscrabble Wind Farm, he said.
The wind turbines have become an enjoyable part of that ride, he said.
If anything is ugly along the ride, it’s the deserted vehicles in backyards, the broken-down farm buildings and the empty trailer houses, Reilly said. The wind turbines, however, do anything but detract from the experience, he said.
“They’re very impressive, and as for ruining the countryside, I think not,” Reilly said.
‘Feeling of obtrusiveness’
Dolgeville resident Mike Bilinski sees the wind turbines every work day as he drives on Route 29 to his job at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome.
The sight gives him mixed feelings, he said. He believes wind turbines are a positive way toward power production for the future, and he sees some beauty in them from the way they reach into the sky and reflect the sunlight, he said.
“However, there is a feeling of obtrusiveness to them,” Bilinski said. “I hunt in an area not far from the windmills, and as I sit in my tree stand and enjoy nature and the peace and quiet of the woods, I now can see the windmills, and this has taken some of my connection to nature out of this experience.”
Bilinski also often looks at night into his backyard, where he enjoys having campfires in the summer, and he noticed red lights from the windmills and feels like his space is being intruded upon, he said.
But Bilinski loves living in Dolgeville, so if seeing the turbines is the price he has to pay to stay here, he’s willing to do that, he said.
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