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Wind farm in Ithaca area to seek investors

ITHACA – The six area residents who are taking over a proposed wind farm in Enfield, Tompkins County, have lined up their management and development team and plan to soon begin offering shares in the project to investors in the community and across New York.

After several years of planning, the original developers of the wind farm sold their assets and development rights to Black Oak Wind Farm LLC earlier this month.

On Wednesday, Juhl Wind Inc. signed a development services agreement with Black Oak. Juhl Wind will work to figure out the layout of the turbines, negotiate the turbine sales and work on permitting.

In addition, Black Oak will team with Val-Add Service Corp., a South Dakota project management company that will head the investment efforts, President Brian Minish said.

“Community ownership doesn’t mean we have seven people from the community that own it,” Minish said. “They are just doing all the legwork to get it into shape so that we can offer it to not only Ithaca-area residents, but we are looking to raise money statewide.”

Black Oak was formed this month by six area residents, with Peter Bardaglio, former Ithaca College provost and vice president of academic affairs, as president. The six-member board includes Internet service provider Clarity Connect CEO Chuck Bartosch, Dean Koyanagi and Lexie Hain of Ithaca, Michelle Jones of Elmira and Leslie Hoffman of Shelter Island.

Marguerite Wells is the project manager.

“We didn’t want to sell this to a giant corporation,” Wells said. “By starting community wind projects, the multiplier effect of community wind project versus an outside owned wind project is pretty massive.

“Two to five times as much money stays locally,” Wells said.

The farm would be on Buck Hill and would feature anywhere from eight to 15 wind turbines. The size of the turbines is still being figured out, but they would all be the same height, said Corey Juhl, vice president of project development for Juhl Wind.

The draft environmental impact statement is nearing completion, Wells said. The noise and visual study aspect of the statement will be completed in February, she said.

After the EIS is submitted to the town, she said, the public will have a period of time to comment on it. That will take place from February to around April, she said.

“We will then respond to all the feedback and submit the final statement to the town in April or May,” Wells said. “The town then has 10 days to give the yea or nay.”

Original developer John Rancich faced initial opposition from some residents, who spoke out at public hearings in 2008 asking for greater setback requirements because of safety fears and noise concerns. There also were delays as the town board crafted a new local law to handle wind farm development, which was passed in January 2009.

The total cost will range from $40 million to $45 million, Minish said. What portion of that will have to be raised by statewide investors is unknown now, he said.

Val-Add completed a community-owned wind project in South Dakota and raised $17 million in less than six weeks, he said. For that project, 614 people invested.

“If we can get that same rate of investment in New York, this will be a breeze,” Minish said.