CANISTEO – NextEra Energy Resources continued stating its case for more wind power in the area Monday night, presenting plans for the Eight Point Wind Project during the monthly Canisteo Town Board meeting.
Mike Lopushinsky, environmental specialist at NextEra Energy Resources, delivered a presentation similar to those presented in several other municipalities over the past month.
“I want to introduce my company and my project that we’re bringing to Steuben County,” Lopushinsky said.
Lopushinsky said that NextEra had been looking at building in the area “pretty hard” since 2009 and that the company has spent “a lot of resources” to make presentations possible.
As of now, NextEra is planning wind turbines for the towns of Canisteo, Greenwood, Hartsville, Hornellsville, Jasper, Troupsburg and West Union as part of the Eight Point Wind Project. The project is expected to consist of 32 wind turbines generating a maximum of 103.4 megawatts – enough to power more than 43,000 homes.
According to Lopushinsky, NextEra acts as its own bank when building wind projects and doesn’t require additional financing.
“That’s huge when it comes to actually committing to a project and building a project,” Lopushinsky said. “We have a very aggressive time frame and schedule for this – we want to be completely built by the end of 2018. If we had to go out for financing, that just probably wouldn’t be possible. It’d get tied up in paperwork and just a hassle.”
NextEra is currently scouting 60 sites that could possibly host wind turbines and the company will work towards whittling that number down to a list of 32 in the months ahead.
“This is a flexible map right now,” Lopushinsky said while displaying a project map to those in attendance. “In a couple months in the summertime, when we get to that point in time when we submit to the state, this becomes locked in place. Right now it’s a work in a progress so the borders can actually move and we’re studying in this larger area.”
The project would also feature a transmission line as well as a substation for underground “collector” lines. The proposed transmission line – roughly 10 miles long in length – would run from that “collector” substation to the NYSEG substation outside Hornell.
According to NextEra estimates, the company is making an investment of more than $200 million in Steuben County including a push to hire local and be active in the area.
“All the construction jobs,” Lopushinsky said, “we want to hire as many trucks as we can locally. We want to buy our gravel here. It just makes good sense for us and it makes for good neighbors. It’s just more of a benefit that comes to the community.”
As a result, Lopushinsky argued that any tax benefits “come with no strings attached to them.” In addition, project developer Ryan Pumford (who was not in attendance Monday night) has met with Steuben County Industrial Development Agency executive director James C. Johnson regarding a formula to divide benefits.
Another potential benefit is road improvement – anything NextEra uses will be repaired or built anew to its standards on the company’s dime.
“We handle that for the life of the project because we need to have access to those roads so take them over and do them over for you guys free from any money from you whatsoever,” Lopushinsky said. “It’s a huge benefit. We know a lot of communities can only do about a mile of road a year. We just finished a project a couple of years ago in Pennsylvania and we completed 20 miles of roadway in one year so it’s a huge benefit to the local areas.”
NextEra also plans to establish a local office in the near future with a local resident staffing it for “two or three days out of the week.” The office would provide those interested with information, maps and the ability to send questions to those running the project.
Lopushinsky also outlined Article 10 of state Public Service Law, which streamlines the process for wind and all other major electric generating facilities. More specifically, he noted that the law provides for intervenor funds – money provided by the company for municipalities and groups to conduct their own studies.
“If you want to get your third-party opinion you can hire an engineer to review our studies,” Lopushinsky said. “That’s what that money is for. It helps defray those costs to help you guys get on a level playing field with what we’re doing.”
After going through the rest of the presentation, Lopushinsky took questions from those in attendance in Canisteo Town Hall – the first of them dealing with the percentage of turbines that would be in Canisteo.
“We have 60 alternative locations so it’s hard to give you an exact number because it does change all the time,” Lopushinsky said. “On the initial map, I think we had about five alternatives. I think that boundary’s going to get pushed over so we might be able to have a few more. It’s a viable area … There’s no guarantee of anything. We may end up with 20 for all we know. A town might drop out and not want any for whatever reason so we might have to load heavy into one area.”
Another resident asked if roads could be temporarily blocked or inaccessible during the construction process, citing the condition of the how she travels on a daily basis.
“We don’t have time to not have a road built,” Lopushinsky said. “You’re saying your house is going to get blocked by the road being built as it goes by.”
“I’m saying the roads get so bad that we can’t even use them,” the resident replied. “We have three miles of gravel and dirt road to cross and some of them are seasonal and inaccessible. When the ruts are really deep because of bad rain and big equipment, I can’t get to my place.”
“We build the roads before we come to build,” Lopushinsky said. “They’re going to be blacktopped and tarred to the standards we need … those ruts will swallow our trucks up and we can’t afford to be down.”
NextEra will have an initial 30-year contract with landowners to put the turbines on their property – a fact an individual in attendance doubted due to the federal government’s push for green energy.
“The life of the project from companies like GE, who make these turbines, they claim it as a 30-year project,” Lopushinsky said, “but you’re absolutely right. The way technology is moving, it’s so rapid. We had that question last week at one of the local meetings.”
Lopushinsky noted that the company would look over the project at that time and see if it was still viable. If NextEra decides to continue, those turbines would be updated to reflect technology at that period. However, should a landowner decline to keep the turbine on the property that land would be recovered and restored to its former state.
A Howard man asked if NextEra had a “good neighbor policy” due to concerns with how an EverPower-owned wind turbine near his cabin and home.
“At times the cabin is uninhabitable the noise is so loud,” he said. “We have 55 megawatts so it’s like you and I talking … it’s the same as if we lived in a laundromat or something’s wrong with your ears and you need to get a pulse going. I know they came in with the sound (study) and sound is the measure of the movement of air molecules – no air, no sound … 365 days out of the year it varies.”
“Even though they’re larger, (wind turbines) are getting quieter,” Lopushinsky said. “They actually have kind of like a ‘baffle system’ that they’ve created now to redirect the wind off of that main turbine part so it is quieting them down. Now, I can’t comment exactly on your house and your circumstance and that particular turbine but we have a good neighbor policy.”
The policy allows a financial benefit to landowners who live adjacent to a wind turbine. Concerned landowners are encouraged by NextEra to have a sound study conducted with intervenor funds. If the project is following state sound regulations, Lopushinsky noted there’s “not much (NextEra) can do.”
Presentations like the one held Monday night in Canisteo are required as part of the state-mandated Public Involvement Program. NextEra will start a Preliminary Scoping Statement later this year before submitting an application to the state.
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