RANDOLPH – The possibility of a wind farm in Randolph has the community reeling after the Randolph Zoning Board of Appeals recently denied a special use permit to Atlantic Wind LLC to erect a meteorological tower for wind testing.
Atlantic Wind, a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables LLC, was seeking to erect a tower at 3018 Sample Hill Road, but the board had many concerns. They needed time to do more research and also update the Randolph zoning code.
Since then, a number of Randolph residents have voiced their opinions and concerns about a wind farm ever being developed in the area. Some have already done in-depth research and continue to look for answers to their questions.
Several people who live in that neighborhood or in proximity to the proposed site of the meteorological (met) tower at 3018 Sample Hill Road shared their thoughts on the matter. Because of gag orders placed on property owners who have signed a lease with Atlantic Wind, the press was unable interview those individuals.
Cheri Mohr who lives not far from the proposed site said she’s undecided at this point and needs a lot more information before she can make a decision.
A Sample Hill resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said if this is what their neighbor wants to do, they are not for or against it, but they are not sure it’s the right way to go. They think another more feasible form of energy would be better.
Randolph resident Linda Inkley is particularly concerned about vibration and flickering caused when sunlight hits the revolving blades. She said it’s like being hypnotized and can cause a lot of people to have seizures.
“I would encourage people to get on some of these websites and learn more about the health hazards,” she said. “Everyone thinks it’s such a clean source of energy, but the health of both humans and animals is at risk.”
Kay Mann said she has seen a map showing 26 proposed sites, in the town of Randolph, and there is talk of 72. She lives in proximity to Sample Hill and said if a wind farm were to be developed in this area, she’d be very concerned about collateral damage from the vibrations, the noise, and the impact on the environment.
Mann is worried about the flyways for trumpeter swans, as well as bats whose lungs are going to explode because they can’t take the change in air pressure behind the blades of the turbines. There are wetlands nearby at Shield’s Pond that could be impacted. She’s also concerned about archeological sites in the Sample Hill area that’ll be destroyed.
“We have a lot to lose. These (turbines) are forever and, once you deed parcels of land, you can’t get them back. There’s no ‘super fund’ like there is for oil and gas to clean up the brownfields,” she said. “Who is going to clean up those brownfields when these giant windmills come tumbling down?”
Cindy Burdic lives on Sample Hill near the proposed site. She can’t say she is for wind turbines or against them, but the issue does concern her.
As a field supervisor for the United States Census Bureau, she travels quite a bit in the Western New York area, including Wyoming County where there are many wind turbines. According to Burdic, several people in that location told her the turbines don’t benefit the community at all when it comes to electricity.
“A community member up there told me that company went bankrupt, so they were left with windmills on all these properties and nobody was getting any money,” she said.
Burdic is bothered by the fact that her neighbor, who was to get the proposed met tower on Sample Hill, no longer lives in the area.
“I’m not saying anything negative about him as a person because he’s a great neighbor, but how can you make such a huge decision when you’re not even living in the town where you’re wanting to have this company come in and affect so many people’s lives?” she asked.
Burdic thinks the zoning board was wise to want more information about it, to investigate it more, and not just jump into it.
Randolph veterinarian Dr. Martyn Inkley DVM has done extensive research and would like the public to understand a few key points.
According to Inkley, the lease is for 50 years which will most likely extend beyond the landowner’s lifetime. The “gag order” prevents discussion of financial gain, complaints or concerns with anyone outside of the leasing company. Subleasing allows the company to sublease property to anyone regardless of the landowner’s input. This could be subleasing to any other company in the future that finds the property suitable for their gain. There is a restriction on the landowner’s use of the property. Consent would be required to alter a person’s own property as it may interfere with the company’s use or future plans to use.
“What kind of resale value will a property that is locked in such a lease hold?” he asked. “It would be a great idea to have a lawyer look the lease over before signing. Too many of your core rights as a property owner will be lost.”
Inkley feels the community owes it to themselves and their children to slow the process and meticulously evaluate and improve upon the town’s wind ordinance. Without thorough and informative investigation of the impacts and benefits, the community cannot make this long-standing decision responsibly.
“If the wind companies can meet, or are willing to meet our requests, and can provide written proof of financial gain to the community, then I welcome a discussion,” he said.
“One fact stands; this will and has repeatedly divided communities. Friendships have been lost, families torn, and for what gain? That’s the big question.”
On the positive-side of this controversy, Paul Copleman, communications manager for Iberdrola Renewables LLC, said the process of developing a wind farm is lengthy. It’s transparent and is governed by a lot of regulatory oversight.
In response to the extremely lengthy contract, Copleman said wind companies have contracts with thousands of landowners all over the country that are similar to Iberdrola’s.
From an agricultural standpoint, Copleman said landowners often see wind energy as a way to diversify the revenue stream from their agriculture production and harvest a crop that isn’t affected by drought or flooding. Based on what the wind turbine revenue will mean for them, they can often make more revenue per acre than they can with traditional agriculture. He said it’s often a complimentary use for agriculture in the sense that it takes very little of the land out of useful production.
“There is a minimum payment of roughly $8,000 per year for each turbine to landowners hosting a wind turbine,” he said. “We work with a lot of farmers and ranchers around the country who continue to farm and ranch. The wind turbines don’t negatively affect their ability to use the land as it has always been used. It supplements that in a positive fashion.”
According to Copleman, property taxes for the land itself remain with the landowner. He said Iberdrola works with the taxing authorities to separate the assessment of whatever improvements they make to the facility, so the landowner is not responsible for any increased taxes based on the fact that there are now wind turbines.
Addressing the question of removal of equipment, Copleman said the lease has language in it to remove the equipment if it’s no longer in operation. He said the permit requires the company to remove the turbines and return the land to a reasonable previous state.
“There are a number of layers of protection for the landowners and the community if, for some reason, a wind turbine is not functional and reaches the end of its useful life,” he said.
Referring to wildlife, waterfowl and small airports in the area, Copleman said those are fair concerns and are standard permitting evaluations that go on long before the feasibility of a wind turbine or wind project is even assessed.
“We certainly look at and study habitat, migration patterns, and nesting areas,” he said. “We work with experts on the local, state and federal levels that guide how we do the environmental evaluations of the site. All of those have to be factored into assessing the sites, along with airports and safety, to deem whether it’s suitable for a wind farm.”
The local economic possibilities are significant, according to Copleman, and that’s not just for landowners – that’s for the communities and the counties that are participating with whatever revenue the project provides. He said, depending on the size of the project, there are economic benefits that accrue to the local taxing authorities at the local and county levels.
“Even a single turbine has a benefit that extends beyond participating landowners,” he said. “Every project is a little different, so I would point to a project we’re currently building in North Carolina, across two counties. That project is going to be the largest taxpayer in those two counties.”
Copleman said it’s a long process and his company wants the opportunity to discuss and address people’s questions.
“We’re not necessarily sure that we have a site here (in Randolph),” he said. “We’re just looking for a met tower to better understand the wind and if we’re fortunate enough to realize this is a site that may be windy enough to support a development.”