Representatives from an energy company on Wednesday sought to allay fears that its 27-turbine wind installation in eastern Broome County would bring harm to the community.
But at a public meeting at Windsor Middle School, representatives from Calpine ran into a largely hostile crowd that was suspect of the company’s claims that the $230 million project would bring anything other than grief to the town.
The project is one of more than a dozen industrial wind installations now pending across upstate New York.
A contingent of residents voiced concerns about property values, wildlife impact, blade shadow effects and noise pollution.
Calpine representatives, however, said all concerns are addressed in its 8,000-page submission to New York’s Public Service Commission, and asked those in opposition to closely examine all the evidence presented.
Both sides have conflicting claims on the project’s impact on property values:
Calpine quoted a study in Massachusetts indicating the installations have no effect on home and property sales, while the other side said there is already anecdotal evidence that just the prospect of a large wind farm has already depressed land and home sales.
Carolyn Price, longtime Town of Windsor supervisor, previously said the town has tracked real estate transactions that have occurred within close proximity of a natural gas compressor station in the town. She has noted no decline in either the number of sales or the value of those sales.
“This is a very emotional issue,” Price told about 70 people attending the meeting.
In all, the board heard about two hours of commentary about the project. A day earlier, the Town of Sanford also held a contentious meeting in which objections were raised to the wind installation. But it won’t be up to either town board to decide the project’s fate. That decision lies with New York’s Board of Electric Siting and Environment, a group of five Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointees.
Though Price said the town supports the project and noted wind farm development is included in the community’s master plan, the board still wants to assure “it is done right.”
Projected eagle kills will be mitigated, project sponsors said, through habitat enhancements, and they also sought to downplay the impact from the shadows cast by the turbine blades.
Calpine wants to install 27 turbines – four in the Town of Windsor, and 23 in the Town of Sanford – capable of producing 124 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply about 90,000 homes. The turbines will measure, at maximum, nearly 670 feet from the base of the tower to the uppermost tip of the blade, A typical cellphone tower stands 100 to 200 feet high.
The project, known as Bluestone, is now undergoing an extensive review process by the state Public Service Commission. A decision on whether the installation will get the go-ahead is expected by the end of the year.
All the turbines in Windsor will be located on the 1,000-acre Sky Lake Camp and Retreat Center site, property owned by the United Methodist Church.
The project has sometimes pitted neighbor against neighbor, particularly in Sanford, where leaseholders will collect annual rent payments from the sponsor for locating the turbine on their property. Meanwhile, those residents a short distance from the turbines, usually located along ridge lines, say they will suffer the visual impact from what one resident termed “monstrosities.”
“Under the flag of green energy, these windmills are destroying our mountaintops,” said Anna Lawrence, a vocal Bluestone opponent and resident of Sanford. “This is going to destroy our life and make this community a wasteland. Common sense tells you no one is going to buy a home with a windmill in back of it.”
But for every opponent, Calpine representatives said, there are supporters who believe the wind installation will bring much-needed tax revenues to the community, and jobs during the construction phase.
Local union members are among the supporters, contending more than 100 of their members will be guaranteed more than a year of employment as a result of Calpine’s capital investment.
Alec Jarvis, director of development for Calpine, said the Windsor and Sanford sites were selected because of the availability of wind and the site’s proximity to transmission lines that can handle the amount of electricity generated.
The expanding number of wind farms is a result of Cuomo’s pledge to generate 50% of the state’s electricity from renewable resources by 2030, and 100% by 2040.