MADISON – The Madison Town Board is expected to meet Thursday to vote on a proposed moratorium on wind turbines.
At a special meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m., the town board will vote on the moratorium. Supervisor Ron Bono said the meeting is tentatively set to be held at the town hall, but if an above-capacity crowd turns out, it will be moved next door to the fire station. He expects the meeting to be brief; the moratorium is the only item on the board’s agenda.
A local law calling for a 12-month moratorium was proposed by the planning board, at the behest of a citizen action group called Madison Matters. On June 11, a public hearing was held, during which the vast majority of vocal residents expressed support for the moratorium.
The moratorium would stall the current wind farm proposal by EDP Renewables and any other applications. Its intention is to “allow time for town officials to review, clarify, amend and update” the town’s regulations particular to wind turbines.
The town board has specifically expressed interest in addressing issues relating to the siting of turbines, allowable setbacks and heights and update its regulations given the recent advancements in technology.
The moratorium calls for the formation of an appointed seven-member committee of residents, charged with gathering “relevant information” and making “recommendations to the planning board.”
The Town of Madison was the first place in New York state, and even east of the Mississippi River, where commercial wind turbines were installed. Since 2000, when the initial seven turbines were installed, 37 more have been erected in Madison County, including four in Madison.
EDP Renewables’ proposal is to install a $110 million 36-turbine wind farm. The model of windmills they expect to use stand 492 feet tall and are significantly taller than the area’s current turbines, which, for example in Fenner, stand 328 feet tall.
EDP Renewables North American Project Manager Jeffrey Nemeth said the moratorium won’t have an effect on EDP’s project because the company didn’t plan to submit a request for a permit until 2014 or 2015. Given the amount of confusion and misinformation that has saturated discussions about the project, Nemeth welcomed the moratorium as a time to allow the public to become more informed and for town officials to gather information to make better decisions.
During the moratorium, EDP officials will continue to work with land owners on lease agreements, he said.
Addressing what seemed to be the largest concerns of the community – the size and scope of the project and the turbines – Nemeth said EDP considered the maximum possible impacts of the project on the environment during the State Environmental Quality Review process. That includes factoring in the largest number of possible turbines that could be used in the project. Depending on the model and design of the turbine chosen for the project, the number of turbines installed could be significantly lower – possibly reduced to 20.
Without knowing what technology will be available when the project is actually set to be built in 2015, Nemeth said the number of turbines is unknown.
Recognizing that the proposed turbines are significantly taller than what currently exist in Madison, Nemeth said residents will likely be unable to tell the difference in height. Visual simulations can be made by EDP to demonstrate that at specific locations, he said.
The taller turbines, combined with advancements in technology, will have a tremendous impact on how efficient each machine is. The new wind farm is likely to be double as energy efficient as the current one.
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