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Wind developers complete three-day tour with Deer River project session

BARNES CORNERS – Avangrid Renewables officials concluded a three-day barnstorming tour of the north country Thursday with an open house here on the Deer River Wind Farm project.

And they said the vibe was a bit different than similar events held in Hopkinton for the North Ridge Wind Farm project and Redfield for the Mad River Wind Farm project, as the 195-turbine Maple Ridge Wind Farm lies just up Route 177 from this hamlet.

“Folks don’t have to wonder about what it’s like,” said Jenny L. Briot, the New York and New England manager for the company.

The Deer River Wind Farm is to include 39 turbines, with the tentative breakdown being 29 in the town of Pinckney, nine in the town of Harrisburg and one in the town of Montague.

Ms. Briot said company officials are continuing to work on environmental studies with hopes of filing a preliminary scoping statement in the next couple of weeks and a project application through the state Article 10 process by the end of the year. Construction could begin as soon as 2019, she said.

“Everything is challenging, of course,” Ms. Briot said. “But it’s going well.”

Avangrid officials also plan to begin payment-in-lieu-of-taxes negotiations soon, but the project, if completed, should provide about $750,000 per year to local taxing jurisdictions, she said.

Two open houses on the project have previously been held, and a fourth is expected sometime this fall.

Since 2007, the wind company has also proposed a 39-turbine project called the Roaring Brook Wind Farm on 5,280 acres in the town of Martinsburg, and Ms. Briot said that could still be built in 2019, possibly in conjunction with Deer River.

Harrisburg Supervisor Stephen N. Bernat, whose town has received a windfall from the Maple Ridge project, was one of about 50 people to attend the first of two sessions Thursday.

“It’s hard to imagine what the conditions would be like in the town of Harrisburg without the wind farm,” Mr. Bernat said.

By utilizing the state’s former Empire Zone program, the Maple Ridge PILOT was set up to pay out roughly $8 million a year.

While the impact of any new projects won’t be nearly that great, Mr. Bernat said he is hopeful that this project will be completed to provide additional fiscal benefit, particularly to Pinckney which has not benefitted from the existing wind PILOT.

The tone of attendees was mostly positive, but not everyone was a fan.

Gerald A. Smith, an ornithologist from Barnes Corners, spent a portion of the afternoon session in his car outside the Pinckney town hall expressing his concerns with the project to those leaving the open house.

“There are many problems with industrial wind,” he said.

Along with the impact on birds and bats, turbines also can affect humans with the so-called flicker effect of sunlight shining through the turning blades, Mr. Smith said. The turbines also have a large carbon footprint, and the proposed towers in the new wind farms – expected to be about 100 feet higher than the existing ones here – will likely exacerbate impacts, he said.

“The Maple Ridge turbines are going to look pint-sized compared to these,” Mr. Smith said.

While exiting the open house, William J. Burke, a former county legislator with five turbines on his West Lowville property and whose son works at Maple Ridge, begged to differ.

“I’ve been around it 15 years, and there’s no downside,” Mr. Burke said.

Along with the Avangrid projects, OwnEnergy is working on a 40-turbine Copenhagen Wind Farm in the town of Denmark, while Invenergy Wind North America is proposing the 35-to-50-turbine Number Three Wind Farm in the towns of Harrisburg and Lowville.