Catlin, N.Y. – A company called NextEra Energy is considering a $200 million wind energy project across four towns in Chemung and Schuyler counties.
NextEra Energy is considering building 50 to 75 wind turbines on hilltops in the Town of Catlin in Chemung County, as well as the towns of Dix, Catharine and Hector in Schuyler County, a team of NextEra officials said during a presentation at a Catlin Planning Board meeting Thursday night.
The company officials touted it as “a great opportunity” for the area and a source of clean renewable energy.
The project is in the preliminary stages, but NextEra has already approached landowners about possible sites and been in contact with area elected officials.
They’ve also installed towers to measure the wind in several locations.
The turbines would be approximately 430 feet tall from the bottom to the upper tip of the rotating blades.
NextEra says it is the largest wind energy supplier in North America, with 85 wind farms and 9,500 turbines in 17 states and Canada. This would be NextEra’s first wind project in New York. Their nearest one is a 43-turbine farm in Wayne County, Pa., between Binghamton and Scranton. The company is also involved in solar, hydro, nuclear and natural gas.
The wind farm would sell electricity into NYSEG’s power grid, as well as sell renewable energy credits under a state program.
It would not necessarily change local residents’ utility bills, but would bring signing bonuses for landowners as well as annual payments over the life of the turbines.
“It would be a generous sum,” NextEra spokesman Ross Groffman said. “It would be very meaningful money to people who have wind turbines.”
Landowners would not be forced to sign, and eminent domain will not be used, NextEra officials said.
The company would seek PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) deals through the county which would result in payments to the county and towns in exchange for tax breaks over a 15-year period, officials said.
NextEra would also sign agreements to rebuild any roads damaged by heavy trucks and equipment during the construction phase, which is targeted for 2014 or 2015.
“Usually towns thank us,” Groffman said. “The roads will be new and better than they are now.”
The project would create 200 construction jobs in the building phase, which would take 8 or 9 months, and efforts would be made to use local labor and materials. It would also create 8 to 10 permanent jobs.
Much remains to be determined on figuring out exactly where the potential turbine sites would be, and there will be a lengthy review and approval process, officials said.
Catlin town officials have enacted a six-month moratorium on wind farms in order to craft regulations, said planning board chair Jim Plate. They’ve already been in contact with officials from Cohocton in Steuben County, where a wind farm was built by another company.
NextEra officials were peppered with questions from both the planning board and landowners after Thursday’s presentation, including how the turbines affected property values and the noise they might generate in quiet rural areas.
There were concerns about the clearing of forests for turbines and related infrastructure such as collection lines and access roads. There were also concerns about the turbines’ possible impact on birds and bats, as well as “shadow flicker,” a strobe-like effect created by the turbines which studies have linked to health issues.
Studies on all those issues will be presented as part of the environmental review process, NextEra officials said.
Others asked if a wind turbine would prevent landowners from also having a natural gas well on their property, and company officials said it wouldn’t.