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A proposed wind farm in Guilford still faces significant community opposition as the project moves closer to breaking ground.
The New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment last week approved the High Bridge Wind project on the basis of environmental compatibility and public need, finding the proposal in compliance with New York Public Service Law.
Representatives of the Guilford Coalition for Non-participating Residents, a group of more than 200 residents opposed to the project, addressed the siting board as part of its evaluation process, producing evidence and testimony condemning the planned wind turbines as a threat to the community.
Non-participating residents are defined as “one who has not contracted with the developer and receives compensation for leased property, easements or ‘good neighbor’ agreements.”
The project, initially proposed by the Texas-based Calpine Corporation in 2018, is slated to feature up to 25 wind turbines between 655 and 671 feet in height on 3,905 acres of private land, either leased or purchased from landowners. The wind farm is projected to produce an approximate 100 megawatts of electricity that will feed into the bulk electric transmission system owned by the New York State Electric and Gas Corporation.
“Realistically speaking, the state does not need the power the High Bridge Wind project will supply,” according to a statement from the attorneys representing the coalition.
Citing an annual grid and markets report from the New York Independent System Operator, the coalition argued that “demand for electricity is projected to fall in the coming years,” claiming that 90% of electricity consumed in upstate New York comes from zero-carbon sources, including wind, solar, hydro and nuclear.
The coalition criticized the siting board for allegedly ignoring “serious and well-substantiated concerns” raised by its members, including refusing to allow testimony regarding any potential negative impact to property values and refusing to consider moving a single turbine that would exacerbate the preexisting medical conditions of two families in close proximity.
“They basically ruled against us on every count,” said Guilford resident and coalition member Bill Pratt.
Pratt said the board refused to apply the most recent wind turbine noise exposure limits adopted by the World Health Organization in 2018, relying instead on the organization’s 2015 report.
When the availability of more recent data was pointed out to the board, its members were dismissive, Pratt said, contending that the 2015 report was used in projects that were previously approved and would therefore suffice for the Guilford project.
“If we didn’t keep up with science and technology and medical advances, we’d still be in the Dark Ages,” Pratt said.
Pratt said the coalition intends to submit a petition for a rehearing and may pursue legal action in state or federal court.
Guilford Town Supervisor George Seneck said he learned at a March 17 meeting with representatives from Canadian-based Northland Power, which bought out the project from Calpine in May, that appeals to the siting board’s decision may be submitted for up to 30 days.
The possibility remains that the board will reverse its initial ruling and decide that the project does not comply with state with state health and environmental standards, Seneck said, but that such a turnaround is unlikely.
“Historically, that hasn’t happened,” he said, citing a similar decision for the Bluestone Wind Farm proposed in the Broome County towns of Windsor and Sanford.
Despite significant delays amid the coronavirus pandemic, Seneck said he anticipates the project to progress as scheduled, with construction beginning by next winter.
“I believe the project will go on,” he said, noting that the state’s energy plan supports building up renewable energy infrastructure.
A host community agreement, which would provide financial compensation to the town, has not yet been negotiated, Seneck said, but the town has already spent around $62,000 on consulting, legal and engineering expenses.
“We’re a small town. We have limited resources,” Seneck said. “I think this will be good for us.”
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