1/26/2008 - SINCLAIRVILLE — As plans for a wind farm in the neighboring town of Arkwright move closer to reality, landowners in the town of Charlotte are taking the first steps toward development of a wind turbine operation in that municipality.
Town resident, Merle Goot, who has spearheaded interest in a WECS (wind energy conversion system), said UPC Wind Management is currently contacting and ‘‘signing up’’ town property owners.
‘‘Arkwright has been moving forward with wind energy plans since 2004,’’ Goot said. ‘‘Charlotte has a long way to go, but at least we’re now on the way.’’
After several months of research and tours of wind turbine sites, Goot said, a group of town landowners ‘‘decided to go with UPC.’’
‘‘It was a visit to UPC’s Cohocton energy conversion site in December that sold us,’’ he said. ‘‘That trip really cinched a decision to select UPC as the developer of our town project.
‘‘During the tour,’’ Goot said, ‘‘we were aware there was some organized resistance to wind power, but we’ve been doing our homework, and I think it’s safe to say, that none of the 40 to 50 people in our tour group left Cohocton with any negative views of wind energy.
‘‘There were one or two in the group who were a bit concerned when we first arrived. But, after asking questions and talking with the people there, they were very satisfied that we were on the right path.’’
UPC Wind is described on its Web site as an ‘‘American-owned company based in Newton, Mass.,’’ with a New York office at Attica as well as others in Maine, Vermont, Pennsylvania, California, Oregon and Hawaii.
Listed as one of the firm’s upcoming developments is the Stetson Wind Project at Maine where an annual production of ‘‘approximately 150 million kilowatt hours will be enough to power about 27,500 homes per year.’’
According to Web site information released by Cohocton Town officials, the Steuben County wind conversion project — now under construction — culminates several years of efforts, and is ‘‘the first wind power project in the Southern Tier of New York.’’
Other data in the release indicates the municipality — located near Bath and about an hour south of Rochester — is scheduled to receive from UPC, ‘‘an average’’ of about $500,000 per year, over a 20-year period.
In comments from his Attica office, Chris Swartley, UPC director of business development, said he could offer very little information at this time on the Charlotte wind conversion project.
‘‘It’s just too soon,’’ said the official, noting the firm had not yet scheduled a meeting with the Town Board.
However, he said data collected indicates there is ‘‘good wind’’ in the town. He said more information on wind conditions will be available after a met tower project — meteorological tower — is completed. The tower is our next step,’’ he said, ‘‘and that will provide data on wind such as direction, temperature, and speed.’’
Swartley said that phase usually is considered a year-long project.
The UPC official said town property owners are ‘‘excited and very enthusiastic’’ about wind power. A number of people have indicated an interest in leasing their land, he said, ‘‘and we’re looking forward to working with more landowners.’’
Among landowners already involved are Kevin and Jan Spinler. The Hall Road couple said they are leasing their land and they are looking forward to being a part of the WECS.
‘‘We visited the Cohocton site,’’ Mrs. Spinler said, ‘‘and, we liked what we saw.’’
Spinler, a dairy farmer, said the income ‘‘will help pay off debts.’’
‘‘There’s a lot of work on a farm, but not much money,’’ he said. ‘‘Furthermore, we have to find a way to generate energy without burning fuel...I think wind farms are a great idea. There’s no pollution and no noise.’’
Darren Carlstrom, a Hall Road resident and farmer, said he ‘‘checked out’’ the Cohocton project on his own.
‘‘I didn’t take the tour,’’ he said. ‘‘I went there on my own before the tour. I talked to a lot of people and farmers, and I found they were pretty happy with the wind project and how things were being handled. The town has already received some funds (from UPC) and it was enough to reduce the farmers’ taxes.
‘‘I don’t see anything wrong with the appearance of windmills,’’ he said, ‘‘they’re a lot better looking than coal mines ... Burning coal has polluted a lot of areas. Wind turbines are a good, clean way to produce power.’’
Donald and Mary Rice of North Hill Road also plan to take part in the town wind turbine project.
‘‘The (Cohocton) tour was very interesting,’’ said Mrs. Rice, noting the visit had given the couple a ‘‘much better understanding’’ of what was involved in wind power projects.
‘‘We couldn’t see anything on the down side,’’ she said.
Tony Balona, owner of Edge & Engine on Cassadaga Road, said he supports wind power, but he thinks setback requirements that determine the distance between turbines and roadways and homes should get top consideration before the start of the Charlotte project.
He said he and his family had visited an operating wind energy conversion site in Somerset County, Pa. There were turbines ‘‘about 300 feet’’ from the road, ‘‘and, in that area, there was a swishing sound. In other areas where the turbines were set back much, much further, there was a soft sound, like wind blowing through leaves.’’
‘‘The people who lived near there, said they had no problem with either of the sounds,’’ he said, ‘‘but there might be some who would find the swishing sound annoying.’’
Balona said he and his family also toured the Cohocton site.
‘‘We were pretty impressed with it. The turbines were awesome.’’
Balona said he too left the site with a ‘‘much better understanding of how the system works.’’
‘‘I think we can all learn a lot from other projects,’’ he said. ‘‘In Cohocton, the setback there was 1,500 feet. In other words, that’s the required distance between a home and the wind overlay district — the wind-turbine area.’’
Noting the town of Charlotte’s zoning plan requires 1,000 feet, Balona said he thinks ‘‘wind turbines are a good system, but I would like to see our town setback requirements increased before the zoning is passed.’’
Meanwhile in Charlotte, where the proposed zoning law — including a section governing wind energy conversion systems — is now under consideration, officials say they are looking foward to the prospect of a wind turbine project and the economic windfall it could bring to the municipality.
Speaking on behalf of town Supervisor Gary Sargent, who was on vacation at the time this story was written, Deputy Supervisor Dennis Lewis said the Town Board will ‘‘thoroughly examine’’ the zoning plan.
‘‘All of us on the Town Board support wind power. We’re convinced its the economic boost the town needs,’’ Lewis said, ‘‘and we also want to make sure we do it right.’’