A consultant retained by Apex Clean Energy was in Barker recently to suggest Apex’s proposed Lighthouse Wind farm would not pose any threats to Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.
The consultant, retired Air Force Col. Dave Belote, is employed by Cassidy & Associates, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm.
In a letter to the Union-Sun & Journal last week, Belote said he met with various stakeholders in the Lighthouse Wind project area, Somerset and Yates, to try to “clear up some misperceptions” regarding the project’s potential impacts on the air base.
Apex development manager Taylor Quarles received a letter from the Department of Defense earlier this year indicating that an informal review by its Siting Clearinghouse found the wind farm is unlikely to have any impacts on military testing and training in the area.
Lighthouse Wind opponents are skeptical. An informal review isn’t the same as a formal review – which can only be undertaken once Apex reveals details of its project plan including the number, height and proposed locations of industrial wind turbines – and Somerset town Supervisor Dan Engert worries that Defense review may not take into account the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) review process that occurs every so often. Local observers think a new round of base reviews will start in 2019 or 2021.
“Neither an informal or the required formal review would ever answer the most pressing question facing Niagara County and our region, which is whether Lighthouse Wind would impact the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station encroachment score in future BRAC proceedings,” Engert said.
Belote’s letter stated that Apex, which has developed a number of large-scale wind energy facilities in the United States, works with the Department of Defense to devise “mitigating” strategies to boost the safety and viability of nearby military operation centers.
Pam Atwater, president of Save Ontario Shores, suggested Defense’s priorities could change in the future.
In a statement responding to Belote’s message to stakeholders, she said the Department of Defense “is under extreme pressure from the Obama Administration to engage in green energy initiatives … . There would be nothing preventing a future BRAC, under a different administration with different priorities, from … concluding that some level of encroachment does exist” for the Niagara air base.
Formal Defense review of Lighthouse Wind’s impacts will come after Apex submits its project application and siting plan to the state Public Service Commission. Quarles says the application should be filed by late summer or early fall.
The Defense Siting Clearinghouse’s March 16 letter to Quarles indicated possible defense impacts of Lighthouse Wind would be limited to the North American Aerospace Defense Command mission. There is a NORAD radar station in Dansville, about 70 miles southeast of Barker. NORAD will do modeling and analysis to assess whether the project creates any radar interference, according to the Clearinghouse.
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