BARKER – Responding to more than 1,000 public comments, Lighthouse Wind has produced a heaping binder now sitting in the wind energy developer’s downtown storefront.
Copies are also due to arrive at the libraries and town halls of Yates and Somerset.
The documents released at the start of the week are a long read, and at times technical, but Development Manager Taylor Quarles said it’s been worth the effort to compile and he believes it can be useful in gaining understanding about the project and the Article X process it’s had to follow.
“We feel that not only have we in effect provided answers to 1,100 questions, (the response provides) a lot of detail that wasn’t available before this document,” Quarles said Wednesday.
“I think we provided a large amount of information that I do hope would eliminate some doubt in peoples minds, and increase understanding that the final application will answer their questions,” Quarles he added later.
That includes the first public view into the area that Apex Clean Energy, the Virginia-based firm developing the proposed wind energy network in Orleans and Niagara counties, sees as “buildable land” that is available once all set-backs from roads, houses and other limiting factors are removed.
While the northwestern quarter of Yates is around a third of the area explored for the project, the larger parcels and agricultural uses of them in the town provide a wider array of options for siting turbines.
The latest filings do not indicate the locations for the wind turbines, which are among the details that will only be finalized and available with the application to the state siting board that would review the project.
Two structures are being proposed in Somerset — two additional meteorological towers that will go before local approval Thursday to join the one in Yates and another already in Somerset.
“We’re looking to install these towers to satisfy the requirements of article 10 and site the best project possible,” Quarles said.
A major component of the filings is a proposed scope for required studies of sound and other environmental factors. The stipulations process for those studies is underway, with details and scope of the research a multi-party process with input from municipal and community groups.
Quarles said that with the responses completed, this is the time to cast a wide net for continued stakeholder outreach. Apex will use emails, comments on their website and the state’s case matter in drafting the studies needed before a final application is made.
“The public comment period is ongoing, it never really ends,” he said.
Assemblyman Steve Hawley announced Wednesday that Russ Martino has been selected as the second local representative to the ad-hoc siting board that will review Apex’s final application. While approval of the project will shift to the seven-member board, Quarles said there’s no additional focus on the narrowed parties.
“We’re still in pre-application phase, and no project has completed (Article X) yet, but everyone’s keeping an open mind to working together,” Quarles said.
Apex Clean Energy combined its own staff and outside subject matter experts to craft the responses.
Quarles said the document continued to be updated in the days prior to its release, with a conversation with the Department of Defense’s siting clearinghouse among the late additions.
The impact to operations at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station from adding upwards of 70 turbines – that could reach heights far taller than any nearby structure – is one of the many far-reaching concerns raised in the public comments process. Quarles said the DOD response removes any doubts.
“The project presents no impact whatsoever to flight operations at the (air base), or training within military operations areas and training routes associated with the 914th airlift wing,” Quarles said, reading from the document. “It’s completely new information we just received on Feb. 23. It’s an ongoing process, and we look forward to providing more information as it comes out.”
The project, as it stands at the start of March 2016, is roughly the same as it was when a Public Involvement Plan was revealed at the end of 2014. But with the latest information, the developers proposing the project believe it’s better understood.
“I think the greater understanding on the part of stakeholders and public is not from one specific action, but a large-scale action on our part, by the towns, and the stakeholders to make sure information is available to the public,” Quarles said.
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