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Potter wind energy plant still on hold

Although the debate has calmed down, the issue of a proposed industrial wind energy generating facility stretching across two townships in Potter County’s agricultural region has not gone away.

More than fifive years after fifirst announcing a plan to build a series of turbines more than 400 feet high on farm and forest land in the Fox Hill and Bailey Hill areas of Ulysses and Hector townships, international energy giant AES Corporation still has not broken ground.

Plans for the Fox Hill Wind Energy Project earlier this year were divided into phases, with the initial section to include construction of 21 turbines in Ulysses Township and 12 in neighboring Hector. Each of the machines would generate up to 1.5 megawatts of electricity.

An earlier plan called for 55 turbines in Ulysses Township and 15 in Hector Township.

Initially, AES had planned to seek Potter County Planning Commission approval for the development. However, boards of supervisors in Ulysses and Hector townships circumvented the county’s subdivision and land development ordinance by passing their own regulations.

AES alleged that the county ordinance’s noise limits, designed to protect neighboring homeowners, were too restrictive.

Elected supervisors in both townships were offered fifinancial incentives, through proposed “host community agreements,” to adopt regulations that were more accommodating to wind energy.

The developer has faced other challenges, including changes in economic and political trends as well as a maze of government regulations.

Last year, one of the property owners who stands to benefit from the AES project, Jim Hoopes of Fox Hill, positioned a large trailer bearing pro-wind energy language directly across the road from the home of Herb and Joan Miller, vocal opponents of the project.

Most recently, at least two property owners have erected small signs on their property reading, “No wind farm on Bailey Hill.”