SANDUSKY – Dozens of Freedom town residents and others attended an open house Tuesday hosted by Invenergy, a Virginia company proposing a wind farm with up to 120 turbines on 21,000 acres in Cattaraugus, Allegany and Wyoming counties.
The proposed Alle-Catt Wind Farm would generate 380 MW, enough to power 148,000 homes. The cost to purchase and install the wind turbines and related infrastructure was estimated by one company official at between $500 million and $600 million.
There was no formal presentation by company officials. Instead, large maps and satellite images of the wind farm area with yellow dots where wind turbines are proposed were on display and Invenergy representatives were available to speak one-on-one with residents and answer questions.
The proposed wind farm would utilize the tops of north-south running hills in the Cattaraugus County towns of Freedom and Farmersville and the towns of Centerville and Rushford in Allegany County. A portion of the town of Arcade in Wyoming County is also included.
Those attending the open house at the Freedom town highway barn on Eagle Street were a mix of the curious, those who have leased land to Invenergy, those who didn’t mind having windmills as neighbors and those opposed to them.
“We’re open to them as long as they place the turbines at least 2,000 feet away,” said Victor Perkins, who attended with his wife, Chris. They live on Route 39 in Arcade.
“It has to be done right and not haphazard,” his wife said. Developers should keep aesthetics in mind too. The green energy is a benefit, but not at the cost of crop land and a scenic view, she added.
Ron Fisher of Rawson Road in Farmersville, said, “I’d talk to them” about leasing land for windmills.
“Our property is not on the (wind farm) map,” said Donna Borngraber, who also lived in the southern part of Farmersville near Cuba.
Robert and Patricia Sporysz of Bray Road, Freedom said the wind farm would impact them as they live on the top of a hill. The closest would be about a half mile away, they said.
“I don’t like it,” Robert Sporysz said after looking at one diagram. In the evening, he said, they can hear the sounds of turbines visible on the Wyoming County hillsides. “We’re not too pleased with the project.”
Eric Miller, director of business development for Invenergy said he’d heard from people interested in leasing their land, those asking how much the town will receive and a “small handful” of people opposed to the project.
“We’ve got 18,000 acres under lease,” Miller said at the open house Tuesday morning. The company is looking for 21,000 acres over the project area. A similar open house was held in Centerville Monday night.
Preliminary plans call for 107 turbines, Miller said. There would be 35 in Freedom, 28 in Centerville, 24 in Farmersville, 11 in Rushford and nine in Arcade.
Maps and satellite images of the impacted area with small yellow dots marking proposed wind turbine sites were on display and in demand. The company plans to update its website www.alle-catt.com with the maps and financial information.
Invenergy plans to submit a preliminary scoping document with the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment under Article 10 in the fall, Miller explained in an interview. The company plans to submit a formal application next summer. Probably the earliest the project could be approved is the fall of 2019.
If all goes well, Miller said, Invenergy hopes to be building the infrastructure and installing wind turbines in 2020. Between 200 and 300 construction jobs will last up to nine months, he said. There will be about 12 permanent jobs at a central operations center to maintain the wind farm.
Most of the $500 million or more the project will cost will go to buy turbines, Miller said. The provider of the turbines hasn’t been selected yet. As one of the largest wind farm developers in the country, Miller said Invenergy most often buys General Electric turbines.
The newer technology relies on taller towers with longer blades, Miller said.
Where first generation wind turbines sat on towers that with with blades topped out a little over 300 feet high, new towers are 367 feet tall that with 233-foot blades extended reach almost 600 feet.
Even the longer blades on taller towers are not any noisier that earlier models, Miller said. They produce more power than the older models.
Freedom currently has a moratorium on wind farms the town board passed in February. It also has a 450-foot limit on wind turbines. Invenergy would seek an exemption to the height level, Miller said.
The company must complete environmental, bird and wetlands studies before seeking authorization from the state Public Service Commission’s Siting Board.
Crystal Abers, Cattaraugus County director of Economic Development, Planning and Tourism, and Corey Wiktor, executive director of the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency, said it was difficult to judge what area residents thought of the wind farm because people spoke one-on-one with company representatives.