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Wind farm possible in Villenova and Hanover

FORESTVILLE – After Noble Energy abandoned the Ball Hill Wind Project, residents were interested to hear from the new company to pick up the project.

The Forestville Middle/High School Auditorium was packed with those interested in gaining more information from Duke Energy’s representatives.

Villenova Supervisor Yvonne Park began the meeting by saying the meeting was a forum for gaining more information on the project not discuss the pros and cons of wind energy.

Managing Director of Duke Energy Robert Charlebois began his comments by saying how Duke Energy takes public input into account when designing a project and that they will have more meetings as the process moves along.

He then told residents how dependable a company Duke is and how it is the biggest utility in the U.S. and the fifth largest in wind energy in the U.S.

“I think it’s important and good news for the community that you will have a partner going forward that has a very strong balance sheet, that has very robust financials and that has a 100-year-plus history of building generators. I think it’s good news for all of us because you’re going to have a very stable partner as we move together through this development process,” he said.

He explained that Duke will be using the old Noble draft model but will make some slight changes.

He explained that they would be changing from a GE 1.5 megawatt turbine to a GE 1.6 megawatt turbine, which would increase the maximum height to 428 feet. This eliminated the need for the 60 turbines in the Noble plan and will now only utilize 56 turbines.

“I would like to touch upon the positive attributes of this project. Perhaps the more important one to consider is the fact that this project is actually going emanate a profound economic impact on the host communities. In the coming months we will be entering in a pilot agreement which will result in literally millions of dollars in revenues being returned to the communities over the life of the project,” Charlebois added.

He said if nothing unforeseen occurs, the construction should begin the first quarter of 2013. One person asked if the project would be done in phases and he responded that unfortunately due to the oncoming New York winter it will likely be done in two phases.

Another person asked if they would use local construction workers for the project. Charlebois said they usually do use some local, general contractors in their projects.

Duke Energy’s Attorney Mark Sweeney explained that Duke must fulfill the towns’, the state’s and federal regulations before construction can start. This process would begin with a SEQRA in Villenova and go from there to Hanover, the DEC and the Army Corp of Engineers.

Environmental Specialist Elizabeth Santacrose then described the many studies Duke will have to complete for the various involved agencies before the project begins. She said some things already studied by Noble will stay the same, like soil and location of wetlands, but said due to the new type of turbine they will need to do impact studies on birds, bats and noise as well as other things.

People were interested to know if the rendering of where the turbines would be was a permanent placement. The Duke representatives said at this point it is a tentative placement that could change based on the results of the studies or other factors. Residents were assured that more permanent placements would be announced.

Other questions included if the company needed government tax credits to complete the project. Charlebois responded that it is unknown whether the current tax credits will be available.

A final question was about safety and whether emergency personnel would need additional training to deal with turbine related emergencies. Charlebois said that Duke meets with emergency responders and develops a comprehensive plan on how to deal these emergencies.

He concluded by saying that the residents can look forward to more public information meetings in the future after the process has moved farther along. He said if any questions were unanswered to email him at rcharlebois@dukeenergy.com.