Droves of people filled the Barker Fire Hall Wednesday for an open house put on by a wind energy company seeking to build wind turbines in the towns of Somerset and Yates.
About 150 people attended the three-hour open house, which included a presentation on the Article 10 process interested applicants would have to go through before building a turbine on their property, said Dahvi Wilson, senior manager of public affairs for Apex Clean Energy.
“We’ve met a lot of residents of Barker and Somerset, but we’ve had people come from as far as Buffalo to attend today’s open house,” Wilson said.
The proposed project, known as Lighthouse Wind, involves private citizens, so there’s no action to be taken by the town of Somerset. However, participating in the project could result in money for the municipality.
“The energy generated by a single turbine could power 3,000 homes,” Wilson said. “We would be selling the power back to the grid.”
If the project went through, Apex would then negotiate a PILOT agreement with the county for Somerset.
“There’s a dollar per megawatt amount, and on the low end, the total is usually around a million dollars,” Wilson said. “That’s a million dollars per year distributed to the community and schools.”
Representatives from Apex were on hand to answer questions throughout the open house, and members of the New York State Department of Public Service presented the Article 10 process by which any Somerset property owners interested in building one of Apex’s wind turbines on their property would have to go through to get approval.
New York State’s Article 10 mandates that energy companies generating more than 25 megawatts of electricity or more go through the state for a siting process. A siting process is how a site is chosen.
A seven-member siting board, made up of five-state appointed members and two ad hoc members from the community in which the proposed turbine is planned will oversee the process and approve or deny the plans, said Andrew Davis of the Department of Public Service.
The siting board would look at environmental health, safety and legal aspects if an applicant seeks to begin the Article 10 process, Davis said.
“The process requires public involvement through every step,” Davis said. “In the pre-application phase, the applicant has to provide a plan and make various public outreach efforts for the first 150 days.”
After the pre-application stage, the applicant must then propose a scope of studies of a turbine’s impact on the environment, taking into consideration local laws, potential impacts on the community and any alternatives that can be taken.
The applicant must then publish a public notice and make the necessary documents available at the local library for a 21-day public comment period on the plan. All comments must be responded to in writing, so that all concerns can be addressed, Davis said.
The applicant will also be required to provide funding for both the municipality and any intervener groups, like the Save Ontario Shores, Inc. group which is opposing wind turbines in Somerset.
Funding would be split equally between the town and citizen parties, Davis said.
After the public comment period, with all statements having being transcribed into the record, the process will go into administrative review and the parties (municipalities and intervener groups) would review and present their own findings.
After Wednesday’s presentation, the state Public Service representatives opened the floor to allow citizens to ask questions.
One woman asked whether the siting board would have to take municipal laws into account when determining the allowable size of wind turbines.
“The siting board can waive local and other legal requirements if they’re determined too restrictive,” Davis said.
A Lyndonville man, who is a member of Save Ontario Shores, expressed his concern that the siting board would be made up of only two local representatives, with the rest being appointed.
“How can they represent what’s best for the community if the votes don’t have to be unanimous?” he asked.
Wilson said that she and other Apex representatives exhausted their supply of literature before the open house was over. Members of the Save Ontario Shores group were outside passing out their information as well during the meeting.
“We’ve heard a lot of feedback from residents, which is what we want,” Wilson said. “A lot of it is negative. We hear a lot of pretty standard concerns, about impacts on health, the environment, sound issues and property values.”
Apex has data from third party researchers which refutes those concerns, Wilson said.
The company has not yet had any interested applicants, but community members are free to comment on their website, Wilson said.
“We’re collecting feedback and we’ll respond to all of it,” Wilson said.
Apex’s website can be found at www.lighthousewind.com.
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