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Bill would limit turbines near bases

YATES – Citing concerns that a planned 201-megawatt wind turbine installation in northwestern Orleans County and northeastern Niagara County would imperil operations at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence said new legislation would seek to curb wind projects near military installations.

The introduction of the Protection of Military Airfields from Wind Turbine Encroachment Act drew support from Yates and Somerset – communities whose governments and a majority of the surveyed residents have opposed the Lighthouse Wind project.

According to Collins, the bill would ensure that any new wind turbines located within a 40-mile radius of a military installation will be deemed ineligible for renewable energy tax credits. Removing support traditionally given to energy projects would discourage development.

“Our military installations are crucial to the security of our nation,” Collins said. “This legislation ensures that military installations like the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station can fully operate without potential interference from wind turbines, some of which can be as tall as 600 feet.”

“Massive wind turbines built in such close proximity to military installations, such as the ones being proposed in Western New York, can negatively impact a base’s potential new missions and its future operations,” Collins said. “I will do everything in my power to ensure the viability of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.”

Apex Clean Energy, a Charlottesville, Va. wind energy developer, is currently working through the state’s Article 10 process over plans to site between 50 and 70 wind turbines, north of Lyndonville and Barker, within the flight area of the NFARS.
Local concerns

The impact that this plan may have on the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station has raised significant concerns from local residents and lawmakers. The Niagara Falls installation employs more than 2,600 people and contributes more than $200 million into the region’s economy.

“The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station has a positive economic impact on the Town of Yates,” Yates Supervisor James Simon said. “We are fortunate that the skies above the Town of Yates not only have unrestricted airspace for low flying military aircraft and drones, but also provide unimpeded radar coverage for national defense.”

Within Yates and Somerset, the bill had ready supporters. Save Ontario Shores, a citizens group that formed around residents concerned over potential harm to the community’s economic, health and natural viability, immediately backed the proposed law.

“We are grateful to Congressman Collins for taking the initiative to propose legislation that will work to protect the future of our air base and the thousands of families and workers who rely on its continued operation,” said Pamela Atwater, President of Save Ontario Shores – a citizens group that formed to raise issues surrounding the Lighthouse Wind project. “Save Ontario Shores pledges its full support to this proposed legislation and we look forward to its enactment.”
Industry assurances

As part of the stipulation process currently underway for Lighthouse Wind, and the preliminary scoping statement released in 2015, Apex Clean Energy officials say they have worked closely with the Department of Defense to ensure the development would not adversely impact military missions.

Structures of more than 200-feet in height are required to review by the Defense Department and Federal Aviation Administration prior to construction.

In a statement Tuesday, Apex said the DoD’s Siting Clearinghouse has stated that Lighthouse Wind is “unlikely to impact military testing or training operations in the area” and NFARS officials have called the impact on the KC-135 mission a “non-issue.”

“According to the military’s own experts, Niagara (and Orleans) residents can be confident that Lighthouse Wind will pose no current or projected mission impact on Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, which is more than 25 miles from the Lighthouse Wind project area,” Apex said.

The company is currently developing five projects in New York, with the 110-megawatt project proposed for Galloo Island near Fort Drum in Jefferson County the next closest to a military installation.

“While Apex is expert in the development of wind energy projects, we believe it is appropriate to trust the expertise of the DoD Siting Clearinghouse, as well as that of local military experts and advisors, to assess the potential risk of wind energy projects to their own bases,” Apex’s statement read. “We believe our professional national security experts are doing their duty and acting in the best interest of our nation, the communities in which they operate, and our armed forces.”