State agency guidelines and reports used to help review the Clean Energy Standard advise against wind energy development in Jefferson County, argues a retired biologist tasked with reviewing Apex Clean Energy’s Galloo Island Wind project.
Clifford P. Schneider, a retired fishery biologist for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said Friday in a letter that DEC guidelines recommending setbacks and maps depicting areas with high return values for turbines in the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement show that wind energy development on Galloo Island and throughout the county could have adverse impacts on its avian species and natural resources.
The Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, organized by the state Public Service Commission and consulting firms Industrial Economics Inc. and Optimal Energy Inc. issued May 19, reviews the potential impacts of the Clean Energy Standard, Reforming the Energy Vision and other state energy initiatives.
“There have been guidelines,” Mr. Schneider said. “It’s just that no one has paid attention to them.”
The DEC guideline referenced in the impact statement suggests that land-based wind energy facilities should be at least five miles from major bodies of water, two miles from areas where birds with “special status” reside and 40 miles away from bat hibernacula, or places where bats reside during the winter.
In his letter, Mr. Schneider argued that a five-mile setback from Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River and a 40-mile setback from the bat hibernaculum in the Town of Brownville based on the DEC’s suggestion advises against developing wind energy facilities in the county like Apex’s project and Avangrid Renewables’ Horse Creek Wind Farm, which is overseen by its subsidiary Atlantic Wind LLC.
“(The DEC) should have mapped and designated areas that were off limits from the very beginning,” Mr. Schneider said, adding that the state Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment should “have reminders that these sites are valuable.”
Neil T. Habig, a developer for Apex Clean Energy, however, said DEC’s 2009 guideline Mr. Schneider references in his letter predates its approval of a previous, larger iteration of the Galloo Island project in 2010.
“That approval, which Cliff fails to mention, was based on extensive site-specific study and it came after due consideration of that scope of study by the DEC,” Mr. Habig said.
The impact statement also referenced a 2014 report from the state Energy Research and Development Authority that included areas where developers could build wind turbines without adversely impacting biodiversity and see a return in their investment.
The 2014 report, which NYSERDA prepared with the Nature Conservancy and the New York Natural Heritage Program, showed areas with high to very high wind turbine sustainability throughout the county, including areas along the coasts of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, but factoring in the added constraints of existing land conservation actions and biodiversity costs significantly reduced the amount of “suitable landscape.”
While the impact statement used to review state policy claimed the county’s wind resource and large amount of agricultural land make it suitable for wind energy development, the report states the rare species presence in the county make it less suitable for wind turbines, an argument Mr. Schneider reiterated in his letter.
“The counterbalance is that there are sensitive resources,” Mr. Schneider said. “With Article 10, they didn’t point out sensitive areas.”
While these guidelines and reports have no authority to dictate which projects receive approval, Mr. Schneider said the siting board should consider these documents when reviewing the projects from Apex Clean Energy and Avangrid Renewables.
“I hope in the end, they’ll get the message that (Galloo Island) is a very valuable resource. By gosh, someone has to do something to protect that resource,” he said.
Apex plans to construct 32 turbines for the Galloo Island Wind project, each one approximately 600 feet tall.
“His attempt to portray superseded general guidance as a ‘directive’ which developers have chosen to ignore is unfortunate and disingenuous,” Mr. Habig said. “We do appreciate Cliff’s continued interest in the project.”
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