LYNDONVILLE – An energy industry consultant working with Apex Clean Energy swept through the area last week to shoot down fears off mission impacts to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, if dozens of commercial-sized wind turbines are installed in Yates and Somerset.
Dave Belote, a former vice president for the Charlottesville, Va.-based wind energy developer, told air base staff and concerned citizens in Orleans and Niagara counties that the general location of a planned 200-megawatt wind energy sytem and the renewable energy project-related processes he designed for the Department of Defense should pose no hurdles for NFARS or its remotely=piloted drone missions.
“(Apex has received) the strongest letter they could get at this point,” Belote said Friday, citing the Pentagon’s response to a proposal from Apex for the Lighthouse Wind project. “They are not worried about encroachment, and we wanted to share it with everyone.”
Apex Clean Energy, which last month announced plans to investigate another project in Barre, has submitted a preliminary application for state siting board approval for the Lighthouse Wind project. While no specific turbine sites are listed in the initial scoping statement, Belote said they submitted a “maxed out” version of the plan for DoD.
“Apex hasn’t determined all the turbines they might buy, but they to pentagon because of local concern to do the informal process,” Belote said.
A survey conducted by Save Ontario Shores in Yates last autumn found 347 to 61 respondents agreed with the statement “should an impact study be done concerning potential radar interference” on the base and Mercy Flight communications.
S.O.S. President Pam Atwater met with Belote but left saying the meeting continued a stream of vague statements and withheld data.
“We did not hear anything that has changed our position,” Atwater said in a statement Thursday. “Apex will use every option available to them, including using high-paid D.C. lobbyists, to try and force this project upon communities that have legitimate concerns about the impact of the project on local employment and have clearly expressed they do not want the wind turbines installed.”
While the Niagara Falls base has faced realignment or closure in past Congressional reviews of the nation’s military installations, Belote said having upwards of 60 turbines located 20 miles away would not be unprecedented. The former commander of the 2.9-million acre Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada said he worked to site solar panels and wind towers at his base.
“Travis Air Force Base, the largest aerial facility in the country, has 890 turbines between 4.5 and 12 miles of the airfield,” Belote said. “They learned how to conduct technical fixes and have the private sector contribute to protecting the mission.”
The Department of Defense can review renewable energy proposals and force developers to relocate structures and other aspects of projects to accommodate nearby operations. Apex’s request came at an earlier stage and focused on impact to future base operations.
As for the drone missions flown out of Niagara Falls, Belote said they saw “no point where there would be interference from turbines.”
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