BARRE – Tensions between citizens and the Town Board over the Heritage Wind project flared at Wednesday’s Town Board meeting.
President Kerrie Richardson of Clear Skies Above Barre gave a presentation near the beginning of the meeting about the proposed project. She said the group is a grassroots non-profit citizens organization with no ties to fossil fuels or Save Ontario Shores.
She added the current Heritage Wind project has proposed 33 turbines, which are currently proposed to be 650 to 680 feet in height, adding they are looking at two different models with a nameplate capacity of 147 megawatts.
In her hour-long presentation she focused on some key points regarding the Heritage Wind project:
■ That the 1,108 industrial wind turbines in New York state produced about 24.8% of their nameplate capacity in 2018.
Nameplate capacity is how much electricity the product would be able to generate in an instant if everything was running at 100%. Using this average, the project would generate 45.8 megawatts of electricity consistently, or enough for 9,672 homes, she said.
■ Out of the 76 leaseholders, 52 of those are Barre residents.
Leaseholders pay 11.4 percent of the town’s total taxes. Without a PILOT or host community agreement the proposed project would pay over $2 million to the community annually. With the current $8,000 per megawatt, Barre will be getting about $1,176,000 annually if the windmills produced 147 megawatts, post host community agreement or PILOT.
“As a community, I think we should be looking to obtain the greatest benefit for all residents of the community if this was to go through,” Richardson said.
A lot questions remain as variables and are not set in stone, so she questioned how Barre can be deciding on a PILOT or a host community agreement without all the necessary information. If the town isn’t willing to walk away, they can’t negotiate.
■ The tip height of 680 feet is taller than any building in Buffalo, whose tallest building being is 529 feet, or Rochester, whose tallest building being 440 feet.
■ The Upstate New York grid is 87% carbon emission free compared to the 28 percent carbon emission free of the downstate grid.
“The problem is that the electricity that we have in upstate New York, we can’t get it to downstate New York,” Richardson said. “New York state is full of electrical transmission bottlenecks that limit the flow of electricity from upstate to downstate.
She added that a great deal of the state’s transmission lines were built before 1980 and electricity cannot get to where it is needed.
■ Put together a committee to work on the with leaseholders, Clear Skies Above Barre, other organization and groups to let them decide who the experts Barre will use and how to best utilize the $50,000, she said.
■ The Town of Barre wind ordinance supersedes Article 10.
The reimbursement agreement between Heritage Wind and the Town of Barre was passed with Richard Bennett voting no, Lynn Hill and Sean Pogue voting yes, Larry Gaylard and Tom McCabe abstaining. The town board also voted to invite Orleans County, Orleans County Industrial Agency, Albion Central School District and Apex Clean Energy to discussions over the terms of a potential PILOT agreement.
During the public comment period, members of the public were very unhappy with the development of the Heritage Wind project as well as the town board, continuing to not only voice their disapproval over the project and how the current proposed windmills will be higher than the town ordinance.
In particular, Barbara Verburg noted the supervisor’s letter to the editor in the Orleans Hub on June 27, which said the town board was just having a meeting with representatives of Heritage Wind to discuss concerns over the reimbursement agreement and further discussion over the host agreement. That it wasn’t done and there will be more discussions.
“That is not the story as it happened, and you know that,” she said. “I am disgusted how we are trying to change what is true. People in this town voted you in. People in this town wanted you there to be a voice for them and you’re lying to them. That is unbelievable.”
Robin Nacca also expressed her upset over the conduct of the board, saying it is completely unethical and plans on asking her lawyer to look into it and put a moratorium on the entire project.
Pogue also spoke not as the town supervisor but as a citizen, saying when he and his wife went to Europe, whose landscape was littered with windmills, he spent most of the time asking residents their thoughts on them.
“Nobody I spoke to had a health issue,” he said, adding nobody in their family had a health issue nor did they hear of anyone having a health issue. Their property values also didn’t decrease and since they are so used to having wind turbines, they’ve just become part of the skyline and citizens no longer notice them.