HARTSVILLE – After NextEra Energy Resources representatives updated the Hartsville Town Board and town residents on the Eight Point Wind Project, it was time for officials and the public to ask questions during Wednesday’s meeting.
The Town Board was then given the opportunity to ask questions and make statements, most of them coming from Councilmen Mike Muhleisen and Jim Perry.
Muhleisen noted some inconsistencies with what Ryan Pumford, project director at NextEra presented and Coke Coakley, project manager in environmental services at NextEra, said during last month’s Town Board meeting.
“One of the things that jumped right out to me was the 1.1 times tip height (setback from non-participating property lines, a variation NextEra requested),” Muhleisen said. “When Coke was here last month, he specifically said 1.2 times plus 20 meters … he said that’s your company standard. To hear you present differently is relatively surprising.”
“What we’re proposing is 1.1 times the tip height as an appropriate standard,” Pumford said, noting that the tip height would provide better safety for residences. “If he said 1.2 times plus the pad, I don’t know if he misspoke.”
The board member also questioned how NextEra came up with the $3.8 million in revenue Hartsville could miss out on, especially regarding years 21-30 of the proposed project’s life once the host community agreement and Payments in Lieu of Taxes expire.
“You said that the PILOT arrangement’s for 20 years as well as the host community agreement with the town,” Muhleisen said, “and then you used cumulative method to append 10 years of non-contractual money.”
“What happens after the PILOT and host community agreements expire is the tax revenue generated by the turbines reverts to its depreciated asset value,” Pumford said. “A (wind farm) after year 20 is worth about $60 million. That’s the taxable value, not what it’s worth.”
Pumford noted that the farm would not depreciate further after 20 years and NextEra would make payments depending on tax value.
“The binding contracts would be 20 years for the PILOT and 20 years for the host agreement,” Muhleisen said. “So we’d be taking it on good faith that years 20-30, which would be the big profit years, would ever really even happen.”
Muhleisen also noted that Coakley claimed NextEra planned to put eight to 12 turbines in the town, a marked difference from the 12 to 15 Pumford suggested during the presentation, and asked several other questions that led to him being accused of “nitpicking” by some in attendance.
Meanwhile, Perry asked if NextEra could confirm that only three of the seven towns named in the Eight Point Wind Project – which consists of Canisteo, Greenwood, Hartsville, Hornell, Jasper, Troupsburg and West Union – would receive turbines.
“The reason I’m asking for it is under the (New York State) Article 10 process each town puts two members forward,” Perry said, “and we’re talking seven towns so we’re possibly talking 14 potential candidates of which we can only send two. Because it’s split up this much, it’s very unlikely that Hartsville will even get a representative at the Article 10 siting board because of the sheer numbers going forth with the size of the project … I feel that is an unfortunate situation for the residents in the Town of Hartsville.”
“Everybody who is impacted, each of those towns gets to nominate some people,” Pumford replied. “It’s up to the Senate president to look through the nominations to understand in a particular project. when we get to this point, we’ll actually have the site plan. We’ll know how many turbines we’re proposing in each of the towns so presumably the Senate president would take that into account and if Hartsville has 15 turbines and the other towns have less, that should go into his calculus.”
Councilman David McEvoy asked what happens to the value of properties within the “red zone” – an area that poses an large risk to birds – of a wind turbine.
“We would not site turbines with a house within that red zone,” Pumford said.
“There are dwellings within the Town of Howard that are within the red zone and their property values have decreased by anywhere from 40 to 60 percent,” McEvoy said, noting that he spoke with two major realties in the area who both said they would not list properties within a “red zone.”
The floor was then handed over to citizens in attendance, several of whom preached cooperation between NextEra and the village in making a decision regarding wind power.
Town resident Stuart Perks asked NextEra representatives why contracts were being made with land owners if the exact location of turbines in town was still yet to be determined.
“You stated that you didn’t know where you were going to put the turbines, correct?” Perks asked. “That can’t be correct. You have contracts with people so you have some sort of an idea.”
“Of course we know where turbines could go based on setbacks, based on land contracts,” Pumford replied. “That’s not to say we know exact locations or have even zeroed in on whether one person should get one versus another. So no, we don’t have final locations and we make draft locations so we can measure the wind resource across the site but those are just drafts and they change so frequently.”
Pumford told Perks that no sound studies had taken place in the town, contrary to what Cokeley had said about them starting soon in Hartsville.
Other questions from the public included: a clarification on whether real or assessed property values were taken account in studies; how windmills would be connected and whether eminent domain would be in play; whether lines connecting turbines would be above ground or underground; and whether NextEra pressured residents to attend the meeting.
One comment that drew a standing ovation came from Steuben County District 7.
Legislator Aaron Mullen, who does not represent Hartsville, but grew up in the area, said, “I think there’s some questions the board should be asking, some essential questions, three questions: What do the people want, why do they want it and what can the board do to help people accomplish these goals? I think the answer to the first question – ‘What do the people want?’ – is pretty clear because I think that the last election was a referendum on what people want. I think that they want wind involvement in Hartsville.”
Mullen said Hartsville residents want to see “green energy development” to help their own financial prospects as well as the town’s. He expressed a fear that surrounding townships could leave Hartsville behind by joining the wind project.
“We’re not going to be able to come to our enclave of denial here in Hartsville and no longer see these windmills – they’re going to be on town grounds, we’re going to see them,” Mullen said. “The only thing we’re going to have left is potholed roads, empty hills, and empty bank accounts … It just seems like a lot of the questions that are being asked at least by Mr. Muhleisen are questions that aren’t necessarily going to try to come to a better end. We just talk circles and circles so that nothing happens and I don’t think that’s the way it should be.”
Perry expressed his displeasure with what Mullen said, noting the the town has seen progress in the past decade-plus.
“I take personal offense to what you’re implying,” Perry said. “I’ve been on this board for 12 years, I’m doing the best I can. Yes we do have potholes in this town, we’ve come a long ways in this town. We’ve got a brand new truck coming here, a $300,000 truck, it’s the first time Hartsville’s ever had a new truck … it’s not an easy job here, the only time people come around here is when everybody wants something.”
Perry’s comment drew the wind portion of Wednesday’s meeting to a close.