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Plans for wind turbines in Niagara, Orleans counties develop as opposition grows

People living in Niagara and Orleans County could see a new wind farm as soon as 2019. The company Apex Clean Energy told News 4 it’s ready to submit its proposal to the state sometime next year.

More than 100 people have agreed to lease a total of 10,000 acres of land to Apex for wind turbines, according to the company.

Taylor Quarles, the development manager, said it’s expected to landowners will get a combined $1.5 million per year through the arrangement. The company anticipates Niagara and Orleans counties and the local municipalities will get more than $1.5 million in tax revenue payments.

In the Village of Barker it’s clear not everyone is on board with the proposal for 70 wind turbines in Somerset and Yates. There are dozens of signs saying “No Wind Turbines”.

The group Save Ontario Shores (SOS) said this isn’t the right location.

“There may be places where there’s no one around, I don’t think they should be anywhere near people,” said Pam Atwater, the president of SOS.

Atwater said they’re concerned about how noise from the turbines will affect health and if the turbines will hurt property values.

“We invested in our home and are planning to be here indefinitely,” said Atwater. “If it comes to pass that we can’t live here because of the effects, it’s going to first of all be difficult to sell your property.”

Atwater said they’re also unhappy with the five year old state law Article 10, which puts the power to approve major energy projects into the hands of a state authority, which only includes two members of the public.

Republican Congressman Chris Collins has proposed a bill to curb the project. It focuses on how the wind turbines will affect the future of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

Apex told News 4 they haven’t decided on the size of the wind turbines, but are considering heights exceeding 600 feet.

Congressman Collins said in a press release, “I cannot condone any activity which puts the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station’s (NFARS) future operations and viability at risk. This air base employs over 2,600 people and contributes over $200 million a year to Western New York’s economy. 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. I will do everything in my power to ensure the viability of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.”

His proposed bill would make it so any new turbines built within 40 miles of a military installation won’t be able to get renewable tax credits.

Quarles, with Apex, told News 4 they plan to move ahead with the project regardless of whether they receive tax credits.

“If that credit is available when we go to construction, we would be happy to take it just to ensure we are competitive with other projects that are being built at that time,” said Quarles. “But it’s important to note both for the state clean energy funds and the PTC funds, those tax credits are solely based on energy produced so all of the costs to develop the project and costs to build the project are borne by Apex.”

They estimate the project will cost about $300 million.

The company also told us it’s working with the Department of Defense and NFARS to resolve issues before any turbines are built.

The turbines will provide enough clean energy to power 53,000 homes in New York, according to the company.

Quarles told News 4 they picked Orleans and Niagara counties because of the good winds and because the community gave them positive feedback.

“The agriculture community, they were really interested in what the wind product could offer in terms of increasing their income security and their ability to operate their farm,” said Quarles.

He said the project will create about 300 local construction jobs and 10 full time, long term jobs.

“There’s already a strong workforce of skilled laborers, especially within a number of unions in the area, and I know that they’re eager to work on our project once we receive our permit and move into construction,” said Quarles.

They expect to submit the plan to the state during 2017, then there is a year review period. Turbines could be operational by 2019 or 2020.