BARRE – With the recent announcement of Apex Clean Energy looking at Barre for a wind farm site, Supervisor Mark Chamberlain doesn’t know if the town will support the proposed project or not.
“I’m sure it’s like Somerset,” he said. “I remember driving down Somerset, and you go down one road and there are all the signs for it and you go down another road and you see signs against it.
“We have not in any way surveyed the town,” he continued. “I’m sure there are some people who would say, ‘Yeah I want one in my backyard’ because they want the revenue. The other people say ‘I don’t want those ugly things near my property.’”
In an announcement Wednesday afternoon, Apex Clean Energy said it would be looking at Barre and the surrounding area for the site of a second wind project in Orleans County.
The company cited popular support in the county to pursue a wind farm called Heritage Winds.
When asked about the height and location of the windmills, Apex Public Affairs Manager Cat Mosley said it was still early in the process and Apex will be seeking public input at this point.
It isn’t the first time Barre was considered for a wind farm site. In 2008, the Spanish company Iberdrola considered building 60 turbines in town, with most in the Pine Hill area and western portion of Barre.
But the idea was dropped after Federal Aviation Administration standards prevented windmills from being placed within two miles of the Pine Hill Airport runway.
“They did the wind measurements,” Chamberlain said. “They proposed a plan. They laid it out and then decided they couldn’t do it because of Pine Hill Airport took a big chunk out of the middle.”
Chamberlain said he has not talked to anyone from Heritage Wind yet, and he doesn’t know what is being proposed. He said he will respond to the group after talking to the other board members.
After learning what the project consists of, he said, a public hearing will be set.
“I haven’t had the chance to talk to the board members about it,” Chamberlain said. We’ll probably chat about it next week. “What I don’t know is … what the ramifications of Article 10 are.”
Article 10 was signed in August 2011 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The aim was to provide for the siting and review of major electric generating facilities statewide.
The process involves a state citing board, which conducts a unified proceeding, instead of requiring a developer or owner to apply for numerous state and local permits, according to the state Department of Public Service website.
As far as Chamberlain understands Article 10, it takes away home rule.
“So the whole point is, why would they bother to talk to us if there is no stipulations that we can put on where it is cited, or decommissioning, or any of the aspects of putting up a wind farm?” he said.
Mosley said, “We are working within the mandated Article 10 process, but we would like to work closely with the Town of Barre to see how we can best parallel the (State Environmental Quality Review Act) process that would have been used prior to Article 10.”
The town’s 2008 Wind Energy Overlay zoning code forbade 600-foot wind turbines. When asked if the state could use Article 10 to force the town to accept the taller towers, Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, said “I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer, but I certainly hope not.”
Hawley, who has been a big opponent of Article 10 since its introduction, encouraged Barre residents to write to the state – whether they are for or against it.
In the meantime, the town zoning code has its own stipulations.
Article XI of the Wind Energy Overlay Zone of Barre, added in 2008, lays out in incredible detail what a proposed wind project must do for potential approval.
The 24-page document details the application process, analysis and decommissioning plan which must be provided to the town.
The standards for wind energy conversion systems say no individual unit can be located along the major axis of existing communications links or transmission lines if it will interfere with the operation, or (be located) near a place of existing fixed broadcast or personal communication systems if a windmill (would) interfere with signal transmission or reception.
The zoning code also says windmills must be located in a manner that “minimizes significant negative impacts on rare animal species in the vicinity, particularly bird and bat species.”
Windmills cannot be installed where they can interfere with normal flight patterns at area airports and private airstrips.
The setback is 1.5 times the tip height of the windmill for any and all public roadways or above-ground power lines in the vicinity.
The setback distance also cannot be less than 1,000 feet from any existing residential or commercial building and no less than 1.5 times the tip height of the windmill measured from the property lines of where the unit is to be sited.
Power lines servicing the project are required to be underground at a minimum depth of 48 inches, or even deeper if required by state and federal regulations.
Windmill towers, according to the zoning code, cannot exceed a tip height of 500 feet.
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