HANOVER – The wind still blows favorably on the Ball Hill Wind Project, according to Duke Energy representatives.
Hanover Town Board members had previously reported not hearing any progress on the project since a presentation in May.
At a recent town board meeting, Duke Energy made a presentation on the status of the project which will include a total of 42 wind turbines in the Ball Hill area of Villenova and Hanover.
Duke Energy Managing Director of Business Development Robert Charlebios said the company is still completing the Environmental Impact Statements.
“We have accelerated the development process in respect to getting all of the elements in getting the EIS complete, which means all the environmental reviews from rafters to migratory birds, cultural resources, wetlands, all of those issues have been surveyed and reviewed and now will be memorialized in the EIS,” he said.
He said the EIS process is their primary focus now and hope to have it completed by August.
Attorney for Duke Energy from Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna LLP Mark Sweeney explained the EIS process involves first completing the studies required by the State Environmental Quality Review Act, then submission of the draft EIS to Villenova as the lead agency for acceptance for public comment. After comments have been heard by the public in public hearings in both municipalities and from state and county regulators, responses and possible changes to the project will be assembled and submitted to Villenova as the final EIS.
He said after this the towns will have to file a joint permit application to the Department of Conservation. However, by limiting the scope of the project the company can avoid a lengthy permit process with the Army Corp of Engineers.
“We have been fortunate that … for the purpose of the Army Corp (of Engineers) we have kept our impacts under half an acre, which means we are eligible for what is called a nation-wide programmatic permit. This is where all the mitigation requirements apply, quality and substantive requirements apply, however the procedural requirements are less onerous than what is needed for an individual permit,” Sweeney explained.
He said this makes filing easier and faster but also means more time was spent limiting the scope of the project.
He said nothing will go forward until this process is complete but the company has been in contact with the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency for a payment in lieu of taxes agreement.
Councilman Fritz Seegert said the last presentation to the board included a reduction in turbines and asked how many are now part of the project plans.
Sweeney said the reduction in the number of turbines was because of the increased megawattage from 1.5 to 2.3 to be produced by a different type of turbine. He said this reduced 12 or 13 turbines. He added to comply with Federal Aviation Administration regulations two more were reduced putting the turbine total at 42; 11 to be located in Hanover.
He said their reductions have only decreased the project’s power by a few megawatts with the current project to produce 96.6 megawatts.
Seegert asked how high the towers will stand. Sweeney said the tallest turbines with the rotor tip up will be 495 feet high and the smaller ones, the type to be used in Hanover, will be 430 feet high.
He continued to ask if the road work that will need for the project will be discussed. The attorney representing Hanover and Villenova Dan Spitzer of Hodgson Russ LLP explained there are road agreements involved which sometimes require repairs to the road pre-construction and then the company will restore the roads to the condition after the pre-construction work.
Town Attorney Jeffrey Passafaro asked if the new New York state siting law, which would make utilities including wind power outside of local zoning authority, will affect the project. Spitzer said it will not because the project was started before the new regulation.
The next town board meeting will be held March 11.
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