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NextEra boosts wind project

HARTSVILLE – NextEra Energy Resources provided an update on a wind project that has its sights set on Hartsville in front of a packed house Wednesday at the Hartsville Town Board meeting.

In anticipation of a large crowd the meeting was moved from the town offices to the adjacent highway barn. Pro-wind energy supporters passed out green hats and T-shirts outside the barn with “WIND TODAY” emblazoned across the front and many in attendance donned the color.

Town Supervisor Mike Palmer led the meeting and then gave the floor to Ryan Pumford, project director at NextEra Energy Resources who was accompanied by Mike Lopushinsky, environmental specialist at NextEra and Robert O’Neal, principal and noise control engineer at Epsilon Associates.

Pumford provided on update on the Eight Point Wind Project, which hopes to place an estimated 32 wind turbines generating 103.4 megawatts across the towns of Canisteo, Greenwood, Hartsville, Hornellsville, Jasper, Troupsburg and West Union.

“Hartsville has the opportunity to receive at least $3.8 million in additional revenue over the life of the project,” Pumford said. “Under the current wind local law, the township will lose out on this opportunity.”

Pumford came up with the $3.8 million figure over the life of the project based on an estimated eight turbines in the town, taking into account a host community agreement as well as Payments in Lieu of Taxes. It was noted that Hartsville would receive 22 percent of PILOT payments based upon a distribution formula set by the Steuben County Industrial Development Agency.

“If you give us the variances that we’re asking for and you think that’s appropriate for your town, we’d ideally like to site 12 to 15 turbines in Hartsville,” Pumford said.

The PILOT and host community agreements would be in place for 20 years, according to Pumford, while the life of the project itself would be 30 years. Should NextEra place 15 turbines in the town, that $3.8 million in revenue would jump to around $7.5 million.

NextEra is looking for several variances from the town’s wind law to bring the Eight Point Wind Project to Hartsville, including: removing or waiving the 450-foot height restriction, raising the limit to 590 feet; a 1,500-foot setback to all residences; a setback to non-participating property lines of 1.1 times the tip height of a particular turbine; and a revision of sound requirements.

Pumford argued that using a higher-megawatt turbine would fall in line with state Department of Environmental Conservation requests that wind turbines be less disruptive to the environment.

In addition, the proposed variances are intended to please as many residents in the town as possible regardless of their opinions on the project.

“The people in Hartsville generally fall into three categories,” Pumford said. “You have some people who have had the decision that being part of a wind project is just not right for them at this time. You have other people that are very excited for the opportunity to host wind turbines. They’re excited for the amount that it’s going to provide to their family and their children.

“And then you have some people that don’t believe the current local law in Hartsville would allow a project to go forward so they’ve decided to sign because they just don’t think it’s going to happen so they don’t want to tie their land up.”

O’Neal said that a “sound standard” is intended to make a balance between minimizing community impact and allowing development of a wind farm – something he feels Hartsville doesn’t currently have.

“It’s not to make it virtually impossible for anybody to build anything,” O’Neal said. “A good sound standard is not such that you can make the sound inaudible, make it inaudible to the entire town or make it so that not one single person might be annoyed … the way the current ordinance is written, that doesn’t happen. It’s really unbalanced in my opinion.”

Pumford then presented maps showing which parts of the town would be hypothetically available for wind development under Hartsville’s wind law and what would be available based on the variances requested by NextEra.

The NextEra party ended the presentation by noting that time is running out for Hartsville to make a decision in line with the state’s Article 10 process for electric generating facilities.

In this weekend’s Sunday Spectator, read what the Hartsville Town Board and those in attendance discussed with NextEra during the question-and-answer session that followed.