Cohocton Wind Watch: Are turbines on the horizon for Alfred?
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Are turbines on the horizon for Alfred?

Alfred, N.Y.

Alfred residents found that where there is wind, there is a window of opportunity in a special Monday night meeting at the Alfred Station Fire Hall.

Keith Pitman, president and chief executive officer of Empire State Wind Energy from Oneida, gave an hour-long presentation to Alfred residents to gauge how interested the community is in developing a wind project.

So how did the Alfred community react to the possibilities of wind power?

Compared to some other communities looking at wind, very peaceful.

“I was kind of surprised that there was not more objections, but I think a lot of them were answered before they got a chance to be addressed,” said Alfred resident Alex Clare.

There was no shortage of residents at the meeting. Pitman spoke at previous meetings and only brought out a handful of residents, but at this meeting 130 residents turned out. The event was large enough that it had to be moved from the meeting area in the fire hall to the garage after firemen moved the company’s three trucks to make space.

Pitman positioned himself as a small-town businessman interested in transparent relationships with communities willing to use their resources for cleaner energy solutions.

“I sincerely believe in local control of a local investment,” said Pitman, adding his company would share a larger percentage of profit than other wind companies — twenty times the industry standard.

Pitman said Empire State Wind Energy has an openness policy that discloses financial numbers, including profits. According to Pitman, the company would would turn over between 50 to 75 percent of the net project revenue to the host community and give Alfred an option to purchase the development in its contract.

He said his company has not decided how many turbines would be constructed if a project is started, but his personal opinion is that 25 or 30 looks like a good number. Pitman asked for the community’s help in answering this question.

Pitman’s company has been conducting wind tests in the area, reviewing power market access, evaluating public acceptance and working with local government officials to see if Alfred would be a good choice for development.

“We haven’t found any red flags that say forget it,” said Pitman.

Pitman gave presentations to the village and town boards during the summer and both boards passed resolutions in May that supported wind project studies to be conducted.

Halfway through the meeting, Pitman asked the residents to raise their hands if they wanted his company to continue researching wind capabilites in the Alfred area. Two thirds or more of the people raised their hands.

“I was very impressed with the turnout tonight,” said Jeanne Cartwright, Alfred town supervisor. “I personally support wind power, but I only want to go through with this if the community thinks it’s the right thing to do.”

Pittman said he will leave it up to local officials to hold more meetings and feels they are a good way to share ideas and answer questions.

“I thought it was an interesting presentation, but there are questions and issues that arise from a project like this and you can’t answer them all in one meeting, but it was a good start,” said Meredith Johns, of Alfred.

If the meeting was an indication of what kind of support the community has for a wind farm, then wind power seems probable in Alfred’s future.

“I’m idly impressed with the turnout here, given the local population. It tells me there is an interest in learning and participating in the community, and from our point of view, as a developer, that is a very good sign,” said Pitman.

“It was a very interested and community-minded group of people here tonight ... Alfred State College, the town and the village all have been very supportive, cooperative and reasonable. They are the kind of organizations we like to deal with and when you are dealing with that many entities that is not always an easy thing to find,” said Pitman

“The meeting made me more relaxed about having a wind farm and I’m kind of looking forward to the idea now,” said Clare.

Empire State Wind Energy was co-founded by Alfred State College alumnus Tom Golisano, who currently chairs the company.

Pitman made the following points:

Annual revenue per turbine is estimated at between $400,000 to $550,000.

Cautioned meeting attendees to be skeptical about information they find on the internet. He said information on the internet can be biased and misleading when it comes to wind power and asked residents to be careful when choosing a source of information.

His company is looking for long term property rights for wind turbine locations. According to Pitman, a wind turbine takes between seven to 11 years to pay for itself.

A wind project would take between 2 to 5 years to be cleared for construction, so nothing would be constructed immediately.

He expects the wind project to be operational for 25 to 50 years after completion.


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