Some area towns are doing all they can to prevent large wind farms from blowing into their borders.
Clarence and Tonawanda are crafting laws to prohibit all large-scale industrial-sized wind farms that generate power to sell back to the grid.
The Tonawanda Planning Board is expected to talk about proposed laws to ban large wind farms at its meeting Wednesday night, July 5.
The town “doesn’t want to end up like Somerset or Lackawanna,” Planning Board Chairman Kenneth Swanekamp said.
In the Town of Somerset in Niagara County, officials have included funding in the town’s 2018 budget for attorney fees to fight Apex Clean Energy, which has proposed building 70 wind turbines along Lake Ontario in Somerset and the Town of Yates. After it became embroiled in the issue, Somerset adopted a 54-page wind energy law which serves to severely restrict the wind power industry from moving forward there.
Somerset Supervisor Daniel Engert said he knows of no other towns that have prohibited wind farms. He called it risky, especially in light of Article X, which appoints a state siting board for any large-scale energy project that generates over 25 megawatts.
“When a developer files an application their local laws are reviewed and the state has the authority to overrule a local law if it can be determined to be unreasonably burdensome,” said Engert.
Zack Dufresne, a spokesperson for the Alliance for Clean Energy of New York, was unsure if any other towns had moved to ban wind farms, but he called town moratoriums on wind turbines a trend they are “very much aware of.” He said the goal of the Alliance, which supports wind energy projects, is to try to fight the backlash and the opposition groups.
In the City of Lackawanna, zoning laws limit wind energy facilities to a selected area west of the canal. Lackawanna’s zoning law was amended in 2008, after Steel Winds was permitted to begin operating. Currently Steel Winds, located in a brownfield area of the Bethlehem Steel site, has 14 wind turbines, eight which began operating in 2007 and an additional six in 2012, which stretch from Lackawanna to Hamburg, along the Lake Erie shoreline.
Rural communities where wind turbine farms have been erected, whether residents liked them or not, often receive payments in lieu of taxes and revenue from host community agreements.
In Wyoming County, the Town of Sheldon approved the High Sheldon Wind Project in 2007, with 75 turbines capable of generating 112.5 megawatts. Also in Wyoming County, the Noble Bliss Windpark in the towns of Bliss and Eagle, which opened in 2008, has 67 turbines that generate 110.5 megawatts. Millions of dollars in PILOT funds have helped those towns pay for road repairs, parks and community centers.
Smaller wind turbines, which are used by farms and businesses, as well as some homes, have been gaining more acceptance, according to Padma Kasthurirangan, founder and partner of Buffalo Renewables, which installs turbines.
She said eight years ago her business had to sue the Town of Cambria to put in a wind turbine at the Arrowhead Spring Winery. But opposition to small wind turbines has reduced since then, she said.
“Most of the opposition is a lack of awareness,” said Kasthurirangan. “People don’t like change.”
The Town of Clarence adopted its wind farm law on June 14, prohibiting commercial wind energy conversion systems designed to supply power to the grid. Type 2 units which supply power to a single property owner or farm are allowed in residential, rural and industrial zones, with restrictions that limit the height of the tower.
The Town of Tonawanda Planning Board has been working on its wind and telecommunications law, which bans industrial-sized wind farms and restricts locations for smaller wind turbines.
Swanekamp said they want to make sure that there’s no place in town where an applicant could place an industrial generation capacity wind turbine, especially major electric generating facilities of 25 megawatts or more that could be subject to an Article 10. That law, enacted by New York State in 2011, establishes a state siting board that he said takes control away from the town.
The Association of Towns of New York State’s 2017 legislative platform includes a resolution to give back some of that power to towns, supporting amendments to the Article X and calling for the state to involve local governments and communities in a greater way in the siting of industrial wind energy facilities.
In January, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo gave his support for two downstate wind power projects, including establishing a 2.4 gigawatt offshore wind power project that would provide enough power generation for 1.25 million homes, 30 miles southeast of Montauk, by 2030 – “one of the largest in U.S. history,” according to a statement by Cuomo.
Cuomo also noted that these projects will be developed out of view from the coast and in collaboration with local communities and stakeholders.
Engert said the governor has placated those with million dollar views on the Hamptons, but in Somerset they are fighting to get towers 2,000 feet from a property line.
“New York City wants the power, but they want rural upstate New York to be completely transformed to do it,” said Engert.
Apex Clean Energy spokesperson Cat Mosley said there is a demand for renewable energy with Fortune 500 companies planning to operate with 100 percent renewable energy. She said Apex is trying to keep up with the demand.
“Change is not easy, but it is inevitable,” said Mosley.
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