Cohocton Wind Watch: Financial concerns may threaten wind farm projects
Cohocton Wind Watch is a community citizen organization dedicated to preserve the public safety, property values, economic viability, environmental integrity and quality of life in Cohocton, NY and in surrounding townships. Neighbors committed to public service in order to achieve a reasonable vision for a Finger Lakes region worthy of future generations.


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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Financial concerns may threaten wind farm projects

FARMERSVILLE — Noble Environmental Power’s wind-energy projects in Cattaraugus and Allegany communities face an uncertain future both because of the global financial crisis and a legal snag.

During a meeting of the Farmersville Town Board meeting Monday night, Town Supervisor Joe Brodka announced he had been advised that the area’s development director for Noble was no longer employed and that the local energy projects may be shelved or assets sold, due to financing difficulties.

A key Noble official responded Wednesday that efforts continue in Farmersville but several town officials this week said wind power projects in Farmersville and Freedom are in jeopardy and that a project in Centerville and Rushford could also be affected. They also said Noble’s development director in the region, Bob Maxwell, is no longer working for the company, which is beset by financial problems.

Calls seeking comment from Noble’s staff at offices in Arcade, Bliss and Fredonia were returned by John Quirke, the company’s executive vice president of development in Essex, Conn., who said he has taken over Maxwell’s responsibilities. He said the company’s efforts in Farmersville will continue but should be expected to take a long time to mature.

“We expect the market to improve,” said Quirke, who declined to provide further details about the company’s financial condition or the future of its various projects.

Noble representatives have met frequently with town officials in Farmersville and Freedom over the past two years and began negotiating a host benefit agreement with Freedom before filing an application in either town for an array of wind towers that would connect to a larger array in Farmersville. That project was to follow a Noble wind farm development spanning Centerville and Rushford in Allegany County, where applications have been filed for a targeted 2010 start-up. The Bliss Windpark in Wyoming County began generating power this year and the nearby Wethersfield wind farm is due to go online within a matter of weeks.

Last week, a citizen opposition group in Centerville won a Rochester appeals court ruling nullifying the town’s local wind farm permitting law because the town did not follow procedures required by the State Environmental Quality Review Act. The town should have filed a long environmental assessment form with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which is required for large-scale land-use changes, the court said. Also, on Monday, the Town of Farmersville — in an unrelated move — repealed a nearly identical wind-energy permitting law and enacted a new one without filing either a long or short environmental assessment form.

Dan Spitzer, the attorney who wrote the laws for both Centerville and Farmersville, said he is awaiting some direction from the Centerville Town Board.

He added that he believes the project will go forward with or without financing at this time, but remarked, “Wind farms are capital-intensive projects and all are feeling effects of the turmoil in the capital markets.”

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