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Alle-Catt Wind Farm Project generates support, opposition

CENTERVILLE – Local sentiment blows both ways as the Alle-Catt Wind Farm project moves through the Article 10 state permitting process.

The developer, Invenergy, hosted a town hall in Centerville in northern Allegany County Wednesday, offering a three-hour informational session for local citizens to get more acquainted with the project. The Alle-Catt Wind Farm is a proposed 340-megawatt wind project being developed by Invenergy on private land leased in the towns of Arcade, Centerville, Farmersville, Freedom, Rushford and Machias.

Wednesday’s town hall in Centerville came on the heels of the Town of Freedom’s decision Monday night to approve a host community agreement for the project. Invenergy says the project will deliver an estimated $12.5 million in revenue over the next 20 years. The agreement will increase 2 percent every year over the life of the project.

“This host community agreement will provide millions in revenue for the Town of Freedom to improve the vital services residents depend on,” said Valessa Souter-Kline, Project Development Manager for the Alle-Catt Wind Farm. “Many towns have used their host community agreements to save homeowners hundreds of dollars in property taxes a year – and this agreement has that potential. We applaud the Town for their hard work in passing a balanced agreement that will help lift up this community for years to come.”

Invenergy has stated the Alle-Catt Wind Farm will provide more than $7 million in annual revenue to local communities for schools, roads and bridges, healthcare and public safety while creating more than 400 good-paying, local jobs.

Not everyone is on board with the plan, though.

The Concerned Citizens of Rushford group registered its reservations with the wind project in correspondence to the Allegany County Board of Legislators last month. The group submitted a letter written by Dennis Galluzzo, who delivered his message to the Rushford Town Board earlier this year.

“I have invested heavily in a beautiful piece of property here and I am extremely concerned about the two proposed industrial wind turbines being erected within 1,200 feet of my newly constructed home on Brookside Drive,” Galluzzo wrote. “If I would have known that this massive wind energy project was coming to Rushford, I would not have chosen to build in Rushford.”

Galluzzo went on to raise concerns about property values, noise and public health in the wake of construction. He said people might not realize what they are getting into by signing leases.

“You need to provide appropriate protections from this project for the owners and residents, which include, at a minimum, a property value guarantee,” Galluzzo concluded. “I believe the majority of owners and residents know nothing of this project and that failure can be laid squarely at the feet of both Invenergy and this Board. You all need to correct that failure.”

On the other side of the debate are people like Dustin Bliss of Freedom. The Bliss family was part of a previous project, with four windmills located on their property. Bliss said he can see seven windmills from the back porch of the family home. They’ve become a part of the landscape, he said, and he scarcely notices their presence – a far cry from his feelings when the project was first proposed.

“I had a completely negative attitude and I thought they were ugly, I didn’t want them, I thought they’d ruin the landscape. Since then my attitude has completely changed towards them, especially after their construction and implementation of the project in Bliss and Weathersfield,” he said.

Bliss said the wind project has been life-changing for his family, with the revenue stream helping put himself and a few siblings through college. The income source has also helped him launch his own farming business, which he said likely would’ve been impossible if not for the extra source of revenue.

“I’ve seen the benefit of the windmills probably more than what other residents in Freedom have seen,” Bliss said, later adding that the stimulus can similarly benefit local taxpayers. “Farmersville, Freedom, Centerville – these are impoverished communities, for the most part. This kind of stimulus far outweighs the negative side effects of wind energy.”

Souter-Kline, the Project Development Manager, said Invenergy is looking at 117 turbine sites across the project area, with the turbines generating 3.6 megawatts and standing 585 feet tall.

Souter-Kline said the Allegany County landscape is ideally suited for generation of wind energy, with about 70 percent of the turbines on farmland.

“The hills of Allegany County have excellent wind speeds,” she said. “Wind turbines are suited to rural farming communities. Farmers are able to have a steady, reliable stream of revenue while being able to farm around the turbine.

“This is a local resource,” she added. “It’s an opportunity to generate American made energy while bringing economic investment of $7 million to towns that are really struggling. It’s a good opportunity for Western New York.”