Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Exposed: Mass Audubon's financial interest in Cape Wind

Mass Audubon is identified as a Minerals Management Service (MMS) identified "Key Partner" involved in the collection of avian data, analysis and commenting upon the same in the Cape Wind project environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA analysis should remain objective. However, Mass Audubon offered their "support" for Cape Wind during this project NEPA review in their 2006 press release called "Challenge".

“Challenge” condition of Mass Audubon's Cape Wind "support" is agency acceptance of Adaptive Management monitoring and mitigation (AM). Adaptive Management is an umbrella term for "monitoring", counting bird carcass and carcass parts caused by Cape Wind; and "mitigation", attempts to reduce harm to wildlife caused by this project. Challenge defines the AM service term, "beginning at the construction phase and continuing for at least three years post-construction", and source of funding, "monitoring and mitigation should be funded by Cape Wind".

U.S. Fish and Wildlife, with purview over the endangered species under the ESA Section 7 review process, provided their comments on Cape Wind on April 21, 2008 to then Cape Wind Project Manager of MMS on the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS): "The current framework that MMS is proposing would forgo refinement of pre-construction study protocols and set in motion an adaptive management process that would be doomed to failure because effective techniques to perform post-construction monitoring simply do not exist."

Comparing similar AM contracts, and based on the duration of the term expressed in “Challenge”, the condition of Mass Audubon’s "support" for Cape Wind has a value of approximately $8 million dollars. Yet, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service comments to MMS challenge Mass Audubon's "support" condition of Cape Wind is "doomed to failure".

Confirming their financial interest in the outcome of the Cape Wind permitting process, Mass Audubon issued a June 25, 2010 press release stating that they will, “continue to analyze and report on Cape Wind through”, “EMS adaptive management plan; and 4. Avian monitoring and mitigation plan implementation during the construction and three year post-construction phases of the project."

Mass Audubon's February 23, 2005 comments on the Cape Wind DEIS to then Cape Wind project manager state: "By utilizing other bird mortality data provided in the DEIS, Mass Audubon staff scientists arrived at avian mortalities that ranged from 2,300 to 6,600 collision deaths per year."

Mass Audubon’s supports Cape Wind despite their staff scientists’ estimation the project will cause up to 6,600 avian mortalities per year. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service comments suggest Cape Wind represents immitigable harm to endangered and migratory wildlife. Interior Secretary Salazar has vowed that Best Science will form the basis of decisions regarding federal actions. However, the Cape Wind Record of Decision incorporates Mass Audubon’s bias, "support" for Cape Wind, in which Mass Audubon has expressed financial interest by their stated intent to implement the AM service, "funded by Cape Wind".

Barbara Durkin of Northboro, MA 01532 Telephone: (508) 612-4133

Cape Wind Wins Crucial State Court Approval

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday voted 4-2 in favor of a case that would allow permits for the Cape Wind offshore wind turbine project, according to press reports out of Boston.

The decision helps clear the way for construction of 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound as the first offshore wind project in the U.S. The approval came in the face of opposition from some key residents, as well as communities in the region.

The court backed a 2009 decision by the Energy Facilities Siting Board to OK permits for Cape Wind, despite the rejection from the Cape Cod Commission.

Still to come is an approval by the state's Department of Public Utilities for Cape Wind's power purchase agreement with utility National Grid (NGG) .

Vt. wind project cleared for construction

Officials with a Vermont wind power company just granted the final permits for a 16-turbine project on mountaintops in Sheffield say they're looking forward to getting started.

Matt Kearns of First Wind calls the decision by Vermont Environmental Court Judge Merideth Wright "a good day."

In a decision issued last week, Wright upheld the stormwater permits issued to First Wind, the parent company of the group seeking to install the turbines on Granby Mountain and Libby Hill in Sheffield.

The project was held up after seven neighbors challenged the project's permits.
One of the neighbors, Paul Brouha of Sutton, said that it's likely they will ask the judge to reconsider her decision.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Towns to reap wind money

As part of the payback for hosting St. Lawrence Wind Farm, the towns of Cape Vincent and Lyme will have developer money to plant vegetative screens and improve cultural resources.

The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation approved a plan for the developer to spend $128,790 in Cape Vincent and $14,310 in Lyme. That money is set aside to mitigate the "adverse impact" to historic and cultural resources because the structures would be part of the scenery.

While the proposed 51 turbines would stand in the northern agricultural district of Cape Vincent, the transmission line would run through both towns to a connection point near Chaumont.

Referring to St. Lawrence Wind Farm, the office said in a May 12 letter: "We do believe that SLW has made a good faith effort to explore all reasonable alternatives."

The letter and other information about the mitigation measures are included in the project's final environmental impact statement. The town Planning Board will meet at 7 p.m. Sept. 15 at the Cape Vincent Recreation Park, 602 S. James St., where it could approve the statement and release its findings, which is the final step in the state environmental quality review process.

Through discussions with town officials that began with an October 2008 meeting, developer Acciona Wind Energy USA agreed to pay to bury the electric line and transformer at Tibbetts Point Lighthouse, paint the buildings at the lighthouse, restore the clock and tower at Cape Vincent Fire Hall, restore Market Street Cemetery and renovate the community vault at Three Mile Bay Cemetery.

The remainder of money for each town will go toward vegetative screening at qualified historic buildings. According to the proposed mitigation plan from the developer, each town will decide which applications from eligible historic buildings are approved.

Lyme hasn't agreed to the terms yet.

"During this time if the town decides to participate in the mitigation the funds will be released by SLW for the identified projects," the office's letter said. "If the town chooses not to participate then we recommend that those funds be reprogrammed for projects elsewhere."

Because of the standing moratorium on wind development in Lyme, the Town Council will ask a pending committee to investigate the visual mitigation measures. The committee, which also will look into the economics of wind power development, will be formed after the town advertises the positions for those interested.

At the July Town Council meeting in Lyme, the council agreed to pay $6,200 to Timothy J. Mason, Chaumont, to renovate the cemetery vault. The work includes stone repointing and slate roof replacement.

"The repair is complete," Supervisor Scott G. Aubertine said. "It had to get done."

From the suggestions the town officials had, it was the only project the state office approved.

"Hopefully, we can get reimbursed," he said.

Friday, August 27, 2010

How Much Power Does It Take to Run a Wind Turbine?

Jerry Graf is a concerned citizen who happens to have a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering. He recently read an item in his local paper about a school district that contemplated investing over a quarter million dollars in roof-top wind turbines. “There was a quote from someone in charge of school facilities that indicated they had no idea how much electricity the turbines would actually generate. As I got further into the details myself, I realized the turbines would actually produce next to nothing,” he says.

The incident got Graf interested in analyzing other wind installations. He uses the turbine maker’s published power curve to figure out what the electrical output is likely to be. The power curve is just the turbine’s electrical output plotted against wind speed. But these curves are just estimates. They don’t account for one factor that can be important, particularly for megawatt-scale turbines: the amount of electrical power the turbine itself consumes.

Big turbines often incorporate rechargeable batteries or ultracapacitors to power their own electrical systems. When those get depleted, the power must come from the grid. This power goes into running equipment such as yaw mechanisms that keep the blades turned into the wind; blade-pitch controls that meter the spinning rotor; aircraft lights and data-collection electronics; oil heaters, pumps, and coolers for the multi-ton gearbox; and hydraulic brakes for locking blades down in high winds.

Turbines in northern climes also need blade heaters to prevent icing. Reports I’ve seen say these heaters can consume up to 20% of a turbine’s rated power output. Many big turbines also need dehumidifiers and heaters in their nacelles. And until recently, large turbines employed doubly-fed induction generators that bleed power from the grid to create their magnetic fields. (It should be said, though, that designs now on the drawing boards use permanent magnets instead.)

Instances of low or no wind pose another problem. Large turbines may need to use their generators as motors to help get the blades turning. And some wind skeptics have posed a question about the direct-drive turbines now emerging from the labs: Large ships frequently must expend energy to slowly turn their heavy driveshafts when at port to prevent them from sagging. Could the same be said of these superlarge wind turbines?

Wind-farm operators don’t say much about turbine-power demands. Typically, turbine-power consumption is one of the factors that gets lumped into a wind-farm’s operation and maintenance costs. I’ve never found either a wind-farm operator or a wind-turbine maker willing to discuss these costs. It would not be much of an exaggeration to say the wind industry treats such information as a state secret.

That’s unfortunate. Wind boosters open themselves up to skepticism about their industry’s viability when they don’t disclose real figures about the power their turbines generate and consume. Cynics might be tempted to claim we could reach a point where we’ve commissioned so many wind turbines that we’ll need to build new coal-fired power plants to run them. Without hard data, who’s to say they aren’t right?

Protect people against foreign wind developers

A lot of us who live in the north country have seen firsthand what the foreign energy companies have done to our small-town quality of life. Everyone here knew their neighbors and tried to help one another. When the large property owners were approached over five years ago to sign leases to have 400-foot-tall industrial wind turbines on their property, they were never told of all the negative stuff and how they would be affecting their neighbors. We know so much more now. It's sad to see how people aren't talking to each other. Some people are trying to sell their homes to move away from this potential disaster before it's too late.

I think the developer should have to buy out any landowner who doesn't want to live under or near these industrial turbines. And they should be paid for what their home is worth before the industrial wind turbines came. The developer should also be paying to test for water quality and quantity before and after they blast to put in the concrete bases for the turbines. Individual property owners can't fight these giant foreign-owned energy companies, so safeguards need to be in place now to protect our citizens.

New York state can and probably will take away our school state aid if the schools start receiving revenue from the industrial wind turbines since any payments would be considered income. So our taxes will probably have to go up.

None of the four townships that host the Maple Ridge Power Project have seen a reduction in their town taxes. Not one. They have also had problems collecting what was due them from the same company who wants to put industrial turbines here.

I think we should protect the people who live here now and make sure that there are strict guidelines so our citizens are not hurt. The power from these turbines is needed in New York City and other large cities, so let them erect them down there and not here.

Marian Vaadi


Orleans rejects Iberdrola's bid to erect two wind test towers

Iberdrola Renewables' application for two new meteorological test towers was not accepted by the Planning Board last week because the towers would sit outside the town's overlay district, where test towers and wind turbines are allowed.

Brad P. Millett, zoning officer for the town of Orleans, said Wednesday that the wind power developer would need a use variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals or an amendment to the district by the Town Council. The earliest the developer could receive a variance is at the ZBA's October meeting. Amending the overlay district would require a public hearing and local law change, a process that takes several months.

Iberdrola Communications manager Paul N. Copleman said the developer is considering both options.

Iberdrola submitted the application as a possible restoration of Horse Creek Wind Farm. The Clayton Planning Board in June declined to grant the company a request for a third extension for the 126-megawatt wind farm, originally planned for the southern part of Clayton and Orleans. The developer is planning to resubmit an application for the project, which was in the middle of a state environmental quality review.

Hammond group calling for wind farm moratorium

Concerned Residents of Hammond is throwing its support behind Save the River's request for a three-year moratorium on industrial wind development along the St. Lawrence River.

The Hammond group said it also is endorsing the findings of a recently released report by ornithologists Gerald Smith and William Evans that suggests a moratorium is needed to study the effect of wind development on bird and bat populations on both sides of the river.

"Bats perform a huge service to the human population, as they are one of the first lines of defense against the mosquito-borne West Nile virus, as well as eastern equine encephalitis that is becoming a serious problem in areas just south of us in Oneida and Oswego counties, where they are now spraying toxic chemicals to help control the outbreaks," President Mary D. Hamilton said.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Will town opposition block offshore turbines?

The Greece and Webster Town Boards have formalized their opposition to a potential Lake Ontario offshore wind project. So have a minority of Monroe county legislators, all of them Republicans.

But will that be enough to sway state Power Authority officials, who are facilitating a process that could put wind farms in Lakes Erie and Ontario? An authority spokesperson wouldn't give a firm answer early this week. She also wouldn't say what sort of weight the towns' resolutions carry.

"The Power Authority is keeping its options open concerning the project location in order to continue listening to the greatest amount of public input possible," said NYPA spokesperson Connie Cullen.

Before the authority asked for proposals, its consultants identified some spots that might be conducive to offshore wind development. One of them stretched from Greece east past the Wayne County line. Wayne County's Board of Supervisors also opposes the project.

Power Authority officials said early in the process that they wouldn't advance proposals along communities that oppose the projects. So Greece, Webster, and the Republican county legislators are playing into that promise in hopes of preventing wind towers from going up within their sight. Whether that works, it seems, will depend on how the Power Authority determines whether there's community opposition.

There's one other variable in all of this: Irondequoit. Town officials haven't taken a position yet. During a recent meeting, town Supervisor Mary Joyce D'Aurizio instructed the board to study on the issue. If the town supports NYPA's efforts, or at least doesn't oppose them, that would give NYPA a friendly location.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

N.Y. wind turbine firm wants to manufacture in Pa.

SCRANTON -- A New York wind turbine development company says it hopes to build a manufacturing facility in northeastern Pennsylvania by next year.

Officials from WindTamer Corp. of Rochester were touring facilities in Jessup in Lackawanna County on Tuesday and planned to visit at least two Wilkes-Barre locations in the coming weeks.

Company president and CEO Bill Schmitz said officials hope to bring a facility to the area by the beginning of 2011, creating nearly 400 jobs over the next three years.

Officials say the company sees small wind turbines, those producing no more than 100 kilowatts of power, as viable for commercial, residential and agricultural growth. Schmitz says the region of northeastern Pennsylvania, "with the wind coming over the mountains, is perfect" for the industry.

State to pick up records in probe of Cape Vincent

CAPE VINCENT — Staff from the state attorney general's office will be in town Friday to pick up records as part of an investigation into allegations of misconduct by some town officials in connection to wind power development.

The office ordered all documents from the Town Council and Planning Board related to wind development be turned over in an Aug. 13 letter. Town Supervisor Urban C. Hirschey said Tuesday that four boxes of materials have been collected, which comprise all of what the attorney general requested. He said interviews had not been scheduled yet with town officials about the material.

Mr. Hirschey will not call a second special meeting to vote on a moratorium on wind power development. A meeting Aug. 17 resulted in no change, because two councilmen were not present. The next council meeting is at 6 p.m. Sept. 9.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wind Power Won't Cool Down the Planet

The wind industry has achieved remarkable growth largely due to the claim that it will provide major reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. There's just one problem: It's not true. A slew of recent studies show that wind-generated electricity likely won't result in any reduction in carbon emissions—or that they'll be so small as to be almost meaningless.

This issue is especially important now that states are mandating that utilities produce arbitrary amounts of their electricity from renewable sources. By 2020, for example, California will require utilities to obtain 33% of their electricity from renewables. About 30 states, including Connecticut, Minnesota and Hawaii, are requiring major increases in the production of renewable electricity over the coming years.

Wind—not solar or geothermal sources—must provide most of this electricity. It's the only renewable source that can rapidly scale up to meet the requirements of the mandates. This means billions more in taxpayer subsidies for the wind industry and higher electricity costs for consumers.

None of it will lead to major cuts in carbon emissions, for two reasons. First, wind blows only intermittently and variably. Second, wind-generated electricity largely displaces power produced by natural gas-fired generators, rather than that from plants burning more carbon-intensive coal.

Because wind blows intermittently, electric utilities must either keep their conventional power plants running all the time to make sure the lights don't go dark, or continually ramp up and down the output from conventional coal- or gas-fired generators (called "cycling"). But coal-fired and gas-fired generators are designed to run continuously, and if they don't, fuel consumption and emissions generally increase. A car analogy helps explain: An automobile that operates at a constant speed—say, 55 miles per hour—will have better fuel efficiency, and emit less pollution per mile traveled, than one that is stuck in stop-and-go traffic.

Recent research strongly suggests how this problem defeats the alleged carbon-reducing virtues of wind power. In April, Bentek Energy, a Colorado-based energy analytics firm, looked at power plant records in Colorado and Texas. (It was commissioned by the Independent Petroleum Association of the Mountain States.) Bentek concluded that despite huge investments, wind-generated electricity "has had minimal, if any, impact on carbon dioxide" emissions.

Bentek found that thanks to the cycling of Colorado's coal-fired plants in 2009, at least 94,000 more pounds of carbon dioxide were generated because of the repeated cycling. In Texas, Bentek estimated that the cycling of power plants due to increased use of wind energy resulted in a slight savings of carbon dioxide (about 600 tons) in 2008 and a slight increase (of about 1,000 tons) in 2009.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has estimated the potential savings from a nationwide 25% renewable electricity standard, a goal included in the Waxman-Markey energy bill that narrowly passed the House last year. Best-case scenario: about 306 million tons less CO2 by 2030. Given that the agency expects annual U.S. carbon emissions to be about 6.2 billion tons in 2030, that expected reduction will only equal about 4.9% of emissions nationwide. That's not much when you consider that the Obama administration wants to cut CO2 emissions 80% by 2050.

Earlier this year, another arm of the Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, released a report whose conclusions were remarkably similar to those of the EIA. This report focused on integrating wind energy into the electric grid in the Eastern U.S., which has about two-thirds of the country's electric load. If wind energy were to meet 20% of electric needs in this region by 2024, according to the report, the likely reduction in carbon emissions would be less than 200 million tons per year. All the scenarios it considered will cost at least $140 billion to implement. And the issue of cycling conventional power plants is only mentioned in passing.

Coal emits about twice as much CO2 during combustion as natural gas. But wind generation mostly displaces natural gas, because natural gas-fired generators are often the most costly form of conventional electricity production. Yet if regulators are truly concerned about reducing carbon emissions and air pollution, they should be encouraging gas-fired generation at the expense of coal. And they should be doing so because U.S. natural gas resources are now likely large enough to meet all of America's natural gas needs for a century.

Meanwhile, the wind industry is pocketing subsidies that dwarf those garnered by the oil and gas sector. The federal government provides a production tax credit of $0.022 for each kilowatt-hour of electricity produced by wind. That amounts to $6.44 per million BTU of energy produced. In 2008, however, the EIA reported subsidies to oil and gas totaled $1.9 billion per year, or about $0.03 per million BTU of energy produced. Wind subsidies are more than 200 times as great as those given to oil and gas on the basis of per-unit-of-energy produced.

Perhaps it comes down to what Kevin Forbes, the director of the Center for the Study of Energy and Environmental Stewardship at Catholic University, told me: "Wind energy gives people a nice warm fuzzy feeling that we're taking action on climate change." Yet when it comes to CO2 emissions, "the reality is that it's not doing much of anything."

Monday, August 23, 2010

Irondequoit planning to start studying wind farms

The Irondequoit Town Board may be the next local political body asked to come out in opposition to the proposal for wind farms in Lake Ontario, though two board members say they've got some learning to do first.

The boards of shoreline towns on either side of Irondequoit — Webster and Greece — have passed resolutions in recent weeks expressing opposition to the New York Power Authority's plan for offshore wind turbines. In addition, 12 Monroe County legislators have signed a resolution of opposition, though 17 others opted not to sign.

Members of Great Lakes Concerned Citizens, which has been lobbying lawmakers all along the Lake Ontario shoreline, have said several times that Irondequoit is their next target.

But while the matter will be discussed, no resolution is in the immediate offing, one Irondequoit board member said.

"It's on our table, or will be soon. The supervisor mentioned that in our next meeting or so we're going to start studying it and talking about it," said Paul Marasco. "I don't think there will be any resolution in the next couple of months."

Another board member, Stephanie Aldersley, said one opponent had spoken before the board so far.

"She was kind of warning us about the downside of wind turbines. But in all honesty, our board has not yet studied the issue fully or taken a unified position on it," she said.

"I personally need to educate myself more about them," Aldersley said.

Lack of information about the proposed wind farms has been a persistent criticism. The power authority has been promoting the project for two years and in June began reviewing five proposals from private-sector wind developers.

But the Westchester-based authority won't release any information about the proposals, including where the developers are seeking to erect turbines.
Numerous places along the Lake Ontario and Lake Erie shorelines were listed as "technically suitable" for off-shore turbines in a power authority study, including the area from the town of Greece east to Webster and into Wayne County.

The agency said it will make details public after it selects a developer.

Carmen Gumina, a Monroe County legislator whose Webster district includes that town's shoreline, said Thursday evening that his unwillingness to sign the county resolution was due to the fact that "there's so little information out there, I cannot make an informed decision at this time."

"I'm just waiting for more info to come out, to look at the merits of the project," he said.

He said his refusal to sign the opponents' resolution "doesn't imply that I am for the project."

Gumina, a Republican, also said he was "disappointed that the power authority has not been forthcoming with details and has basically ignored Freedom of Information requests. I would expect that they would be more forthcoming for a project like this."

His reference was to Freedom of Information Law requests for copies of the five proposals. One was filed by the Democrat and Chronicle in June, and another was filed this week by state Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, Niagara County.

The request by Maziarz, who chairs the Senate energy committee, is still pending. The authority has denied the FOIL request filed by the newspaper but is a month beyond the legal deadline for responding to an appeal of the denial.

A spokeswoman for the authority, Connie Cullen, said Friday the agency expects to release a decision on the newspaper's FOIL appeal next week.

Resolution opposing area wind farm short of majority

Opponents who hoped Monroe would become the fifth New York county to reject the idea of offshore wind farms have fallen a little short.

An advisory resolution opposing the New York Power Authority plan to locate wind turbines in Lake Ontario or Lake Erie has been signed by 12 of 29 Monroe County legislators, three short of a majority.

The 12 county lawmakers who endorsed the nonbinding resolution were Republicans. Four Republicans and all 13 Democrats declined to sign the resolution, which was offered by Rick Antelli, a Republican who represents shoreline neighborhoods in Greece.

Vincent Esposito, D-Irondequoit, was one of two legislators representing shoreline districts who refused to sign the resolution. "I'm very gratified that a bipartisan majority of the legislation has agreed to wait" before passing judgment on the offshore wind proposal, he said.

The New York Power Authority is currently reviewing five proposals from private-sector wind developers to build offshore wind turbines somewhere in lakes Ontario or Erie. The agency has urged public officials and citizens to be patient until a developer is chosen and a location revealed, likely in late 2010 or early 2011.

"We respect the legislators' vote on the initiative and the decision to wait until a development option is selected," said NYPA spokeswoman Connie Cullen. Once that happens, she said, "the project's details will be disclosed and discussed publicly over an extended period of time."

The authority has denied a Freedom of Information law request by the Democrat and Chronicle for the five developers' proposals, and is more than a month late responding to an appeal of that denial.

Antelli said many of his constituents had already decided they want nothing to do with 400-foot-tall turbines a few miles off the Monroe shoreline.

"Pretty much my goal was to represent the people in the 7th Legislative District. The other legislators had to take a look at what their constituents are requesting of them," Antelli said Thursday when asked about the fate of the resolution. "Overall, I'm pleased."

Lawmakers in Wayne, Oswego, Jefferson and Chautauqua counties have voted by wide margins to oppose the plan by the New York Power Authority to locate one or more wind farms in the near-shore waters of lakes Ontario or Erie. The Niagara County Legislature endorsed the authority proposal last year, but recently named a panel to revisit that decision.

Unlike those counties, Monroe's legislature did not hold a public discussion or vote. Instead, it used a more informal process in which Antelli submitted a resolution of opposition to his colleagues for their signatures. It took until Thursday for legislative officials to get final word as to who had signed on.

Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, meanwhile, is maintaining a neutral stance on the project.

"The county executive does not have an official position. She is listening to advocates on both sides of the issue. She thinks it's helpful to have a robust public debate," Noah Lebowitz, a spokesman for the Brooks administration, said last week.

Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy said last week he believes passing resolutions of opposition is short-sighted. "We need to look at this for the long term and explore this," he said.

Duffy, who is running for lieutenant governor, said offshore wind farms were desirable as a source of renewable energy and, potentially, a source of jobs and economic growth for the Rochester region.

But, he said he knows people have legitimate concerns about the turbines, especially their esthetic impact. "If they buy a home on Beach Avenue or anywhere along the lake, they want to look out their windows every morning and see the water. I respect that," Duffy said. "I don't think we in any way can make a rash decision. If we put our minds together, I bet we could come up with some alternatives and compromises that could produce that first wind farm."

Of the five Monroe County legislators who represent part of the Lake Ontario shoreline, Antelli, Richard Yolevich, R-Parma, and Mike Rockow, R-Sweden, signed the anti-wind farm resolution. Two others, Esposito and Carmen Gumina, R-Webster, did not. Gumina's non-signature is noteworthy, as the Webster Town Board has passed its own resolution of opposition.

Gumina did not return a telephone message or an e-mail requesting comment.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

New First Wind S1 filing with the SEC

Save and download for your own safe keeping.


SEC Edgar First Wind S1 amendment 7 full filling

Washington, D.C. 20549


Amendment No. 7


First Wind Holdings Inc.
(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in Its Charter)

Town accepts final impact statement

CAPE VINCENT — The town Planning Board unanimously accepted the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the St. Lawrence Wind Farm as being complete Wednesday night, a day after the Town Council here lacked the votes to suspend all wind power development.

During the roughly 20-minute meeting, board members asked for an explanation from the developer, Acciona Wind Energy USA, as to why the project was reduced from 53 turbines to 51 and whether that change affects the studies performed for the larger project.

"As long as the document remains accurate, which I believe it is, the description of 53 turbines doesn't change the rendering of those reports or make them uncredible," said the town's attorney on wind power projects, Todd M. Mathes of Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna LLP, Albany. "What you had was a study that came to some conclusions, and the footprint of the project shrank in response to it."

The board also agreed that the developer change all references of "drinking wells" to "domestic wells" in the statement.

The board, however, did not discuss discrepancies among consultants hired by the town and ones hired by the developer concerning the amount of noise created by the project.

The town's consultants, Gregory C. Tocci and William J. Elliot of Cavanaugh Tocci Associates, Sudbury, Mass., found fault with the analysis in the statement, arguing ambient noise levels have been overstated in the impact statement, which could allow higher levels of noise from turbines without violating state Department of Environmental Conservation limits.

In response, Acciona's consultant, David M. Hessler of Hessler Associates Inc., Haymarket, Va., proposed a complaint resolution procedure that involves both the developer and a town designee.

Wednesday night, all of the Planning Board's members were present except for Karen Bourcy, who is abstaining from votes concerning St. Lawrence Wind Farm because she has relatives who signed leases with Acciona, Planning Board Chairman Richard J. Edsall said.

Tuesday night, a resolution presented by Supervisor C. Urban Hirschey to halt all wind power development in the town failed to gather enough votes to pass. The supervisor said the resolution would "give the community the breathing space it needs," during the state Attorney General's investigation into wind power development.

Following Wednesday's meeting, Mr. Edsall referred all questions about the environmental impact statement to Mr. Mathes.

The attorney said copies of the statement will be sent to state and federal agencies. After 10 days, the board can complete its findings and end the environmental review. Involved agencies, but not the public, also will weigh in with findings.

Following the meeting, Cindy L. Grant, a member of Environmentally Concerned Citizens Organization, said the environmental impact statement's validity is marred by ethics complaints being investigated by the attorney general.

"This is a place where people live their whole lives and want to retire here," she said. "How can a board that is as compromised as this one make any decisions?"

Mrs. Grant said the statement fails to thoroughly study the impact the project will have on migratory patterns.

"I've seen what has happened on Wolfe Island," she said. "We don't want that to happen over here."

Art D. Pundt, Cape Vincent, echoed her concerns.

"The study doesn't matter if it was put together while there were conflicts of interest on the board," he said. The whole SEQR (state environmental quality review) process is in question."

Copies of the statement will be available at the libraries and town clerk's offices in both Cape Vincent and Lyme. It will be available on Acciona's website as well.

Goldwind USA expands management team with former First Wind hirings

UNITED STATES: Goldwind has expanded the management team at its US subsidiary with chief executive Tim Rosenzweig bringing in two executives who have worked at his previous company First Wind.

Scott Rowland, a consultant who previously held the position of vice-president of engineering and construction with First Wind, has been appointed vice president of engineering with Goldwind US.

Additionally, Bernie Lacoste, who was previously vice-president of operations and maintenance at First Wind has been appointed director operations and services with Goldwind US. Prior to joining Goldwid he worked as an application engineer and project manager for enXco and helped the company build projects on the US mainland and Hawaii and in Central America.

The two appointments are the first major hirings by Goldwind US since it brought in Rosenzweig to be CEO from First Wind. Rosenzweig was vice-president and chief financial officer of First Wind.

Goldwind will begin manufacturing nacelles and hubs in the US next year as it strives to achieve a third of sales in overseas markets and expand sales of direct-drive turbines.

The company's US arm has opened an office in Chicago to oversee operations in sales, service and manufacturing. Target markets include both North and South America.

The parent company's chairman and CEO, Wu Gang, says the overseas push is about more than unit sales. "Goldwind will cultivate itself into a leading wind turbine supplier in the world through internationalising its capital, talents, market, technologies and products."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

George Maziarz demands wind farm facts

State Sen. George Maziarz of Niagara County, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, has filed a Freedom of Information request with the New York Power Authority for copies of offshore wind energy proposals.

The authority is reviewing five private-sector proposals to construct huge wind turbines in Lake Ontario or Lake Erie. The agency won't make public any information about the proposals, which have stirred controversy in shoreline communities.

Maziarz's open-records request mirrors one filed in June by the Democrat and Chronicle for documents related to the controversial wind-farm proposal. The Power Authority denied that request, but now is four weeks overdue in answering an appeal of that denial.

Maziarz, R-Newfane, said he's hopeful his request will jar authority officials into making public the names of companies submitting proposals, the proposed turbine locations and other basic details.

"If they don't, I'm going to sue them myself. One way or the other, the information's coming out," Maziarz said Tuesday. If he did sue, Maziarz said he would do it on his own behalf and pay for it himself.

Authority spokeswoman Connie Cullen, said the agency is reviewing his FOIL request.

Authority officials have said it would jeopardize negotiations and harm the companies' interests if they released the information before trustees select the winning firm. That decision is not expected until early next year.

Maziarz acknowledged that he's had a rocky relationship with the authority, which he said stems from his belief that the authority favors downstate interests. He also said he sees parallels between the offshore proposal and a failed clean-coal project that the authority promoted in Niagara County.

"I agree with generating power from renewable sources, but it has to be practical. I wonder how practical this really is?" he said, referring to offshore turbines. He said he's unable to judge their practicality because of a lack of information.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cape council calls wind meeting

CAPE VINCENT — Members of the groups opposed to wind power development are being called to attend a special Town Council meeting tonight.

The meeting was called by Cape Vincent Supervisor Urban C. Hirschey to discuss, among other things, the "suspension of all actions pertaining to wind development" and a probe by the state attorney general's office into the actions of certain town officials in connection with wind farm development, according to a fax sent to the Times on Sunday afternoon announcing the meeting.

John L. Byrne, Cape Vincent, a critic of wind power development, said he has contacted a number of groups, including the Wind Power Ethics Group, Coalition for the Preservation of the Golden Crescent and Concerned Residents of Hammond, to attend the meeting.

"I urge anyone that cares about the issue at hand to please be present, be early and be professional," Mr. Byrne wrote in an e-mail to wind power organizations' leaders. "We need your support at this historic meeting."

Monday afternoon, Mr. Byrne said he expects a "packed house" during the meeting.

"Basically, what we are there to do is to support the supervisor's resolution, which he is going to put on the table for the board to examine," he said. "That resolution, we believe, will put a halt on all wind power development action until after the attorney general has completed his report and turned over those findings to the folks of Cape Vincent."

In the e-mail, Mr. Byrne says that "conflicted" board members might vote in favor of continuing wind power development.

A spokesman for the attorney general's office announced Friday it had conducted interviews in Cape Vincent with "parties interested in wind power" and plans to launch an investigation into potential misconduct by town officials.

The attorney general's office requested information about any present, past or future wind farm development or siting of the farms, as well as all information regarding wind turbines, wind power and related facilities or wind power projects.

By Aug. 28, the attorney general's office wants:

¦ All documents relating to town action on wind farm development, including, but not limited to, board minutes, board packages, resolutions, voting records, communications, permits, applications and licenses.

¦ All communications between or among town officials and any company engaged in wind farm development.

¦ All documents concerning any financial relationship between a town official, or their relatives, and a company engaged in wind farm development, including, but not limited to, any financial disclosures filed with the town and any board minutes reflecting any such disclosures.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. today at the Cape Vincent Recreation Park board room at 602 S. James St.

More than half of Britain's wind farms have been built where there is not enough wind

It's not exactly rocket science – when building a wind farm, look for a site that is, well, quite windy.

But more than half of Britain’s wind farms are operating at less than 25 per cent capacity.

In England, the figure rises to 70 per cent of onshore developments, research shows.

Experts say that over-generous subsidies mean hundreds of turbines are going up on sites that are simply not breezy enough.

Britain’s most feeble wind farm is in Blyth Harbour in Northumberland, where the nine turbines lining the East Pier reach a meagre 4.9 per cent of their capacity.

Another at Chelker reservoir in North Yorkshire operates at only 5.3 per cent of its potential, the analysis of 2009 figures provided by energy regulator Ofgem found.

The ten turbines at Burton Wold in Northamptonshire have been running for just three years, but achieved only 19 per cent capacity.

Europe’s biggest wind farm, Whitelee, near Glasgow, boasts 140 turbines. But last year they ran at less than a quarter of their capacity.

The revelation that so many wind farms are under-performing will be of interest to those who argue that they are simply expensive eyesores.

Michael Jefferson, the professor of international business and sustainability who carried out the analysis, says financial incentives designed to help Britain meet green energy targets are encouraging firms to site their developments badly.

Under the controversial Renewable Obligation scheme, British consumers pay £1billion a year in their fuel bills to subsidise the drive towards renewable energy.

Turbines operating well under capacity are still doing well out of the scheme, but Professor Jefferson, of the London Metropolitan Business School, wants the cash to be reserved for the windiest sites.

He said: ‘There is a political motivation to drive non-fossil fuel energy, which I very much respect, but we need more focus.’

He suggests that the full subsidy be restricted to turbines which achieve capacity of 30 per cent or more – managed by just eight of England’s 104 on-shore wind farms last year.

Those that fall below 25 per cent should not be eligible for any subsidy. Professor Jefferson said: ‘That would focus the mind to put them in a sensible place.’

Britain has 2,906 wind turbines spread over 264 sites. But a further 7,000 are planned for the next 12 years to meet European targets on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Nick Medic, of Renewable UK, which represents the wind industry, said talk of efficiency was ‘unhelpful’.

He added: ‘Other types of energy, from hydro to nuclear, operate at 50 per cent efficiency at best due to factors including maintenance shut downs and fluctuating demands.’

Monday, August 16, 2010

Attorney General launches investigation into wind dealings in Cape Vincent

Syracuse, NY -- The state Attorney General’s office has launched an investigation into possible misconduct by Cape Vincent officials as they consider plans to build more than 100 wind turbines in their town.

Opponents of the two proposed wind farms complained to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo that the planning process was tainted by conflicts of interest on the town board and planning board.

Two out of five town board members and three out of five planning board members either personally have agreements to lease their land to wind developers, or have relatives with wind leases. The officials or their relatives stand to profit if the wind farms are built as proposed by BP Wind Energy and Acciona SA. Nothing has been built yet.

Cape Vincent is situated at the junction of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The controversy over wind development has driven a wedge between year-round residents in favor of economic development and summer residents who say the 400-foot-tall wind turbines would mar the landscape. It was an issue in the November town supervisor race, won by a wind opponent. (Read the Feb. 14 story, "Windmills Stir Up a Storm in Cape Vincent.")

The Aug. 13 letter from the deputy chief of Cuomo’s Public Integrity Bureau gives the town two weeks to hand over all documents and communications relating to wind farm development from Jan. 1, 2005 to the present. It also seeks interviews with members of the town and planning boards during that time period.

A spokesman for Cuomo’s office confirmed the existence of the investigation but declined to elaborate.

Town Supervisor Urban Hirschey called a special town board meeting for Tuesday in Cape Vincent’s recreation hall to discuss how the town will fulfill the state’s request for documents.

He also will propose a suspension of all action on the wind farms until the investigation is concluded. This would be the second time Hirschey has sought to halt wind development. On Jan. 14, a moratorium he proposed was defeated, 3-2.

“It’s unlikely that this will (pass),” he said Monday.

The matter may not come to a vote at all. Two of the board’s five members are on vacation and thus far unreachable, Hirschey said, so the board may not have a quorum.

In 2008, Cuomo announced the establishment of a wind industry ethics code that bans wind companies from hiring municipal employees or their relatives, or from giving them gifts. Companies also must disclose the names of all municipal officers or their relatives who have a financial stake in wind farm development. Both BP and Acciona agreed to the code and disclosed their relationships with municipal officials.

Cuomo, a Democrat, is running for governor on a platform that includes strengthening government ethics.

Marie Morelli can be reached at mmorelli@syracuse.com and 470-2220.

Wind turbines and health

Editor’s note: National Wind Watch has compiled a lengthy list of articles on what is basically Wind Turbine Syndrome, going back to 2004. From around the world. This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s pretty darn impressive. Click here to go to the original article, where the articles are hot-linked for ease of accessing

Milner, Catherine (January 25, 2004). Telegraph. “Wind farms ‘make people sick who live up to a mile away’” [1].

Keller, James (May 13, 2006). Hamilton Spectator. “Family says turbine vibrations made them ill enough to move” [2].

Kriz, Kathy (October 12, 2006). WHAM-TV. “Could Wind Turbines Be A Health Hazard?” [3].

Chronicle Herald (August 27, 2007). “Quietly sounding alarm; Forced from home after noise from wind farm turbines made family sick, d’Entremont telling others his story” [4].

St. James, Janet (July 29, 2008). WFAA-TV. “Neighbors claim wind turbine makes them ill” [5].

CTV (September 28, 2008). “Wind turbines cause health problems, residents say” [6].

Keen, Judy (November 3, 2008). USA Today. “Neighbors at odds over noise from wind turbines” [7].

Tilkin, Dan (November 14, 2008). KATU-TV. “Wind farms: Is there a hidden health hazard?” [8].

Sudekum Fisher, Maria (February 3, 2009). Associated Press. “NW Missouri man sues Deere, wind energy company” [9].

Takeda, Tsuyoshi (February 6, 2009). Asahi Shimbun. “Something in the Wind as Mystery Illnesses Rise” [10].

Blaney Flietner, Maureen. Bobvila.com. “Green Backlash: The Wind Turbine Controversy” [11].

Nelson, Bob (March 2, 2009). Morning Show, KFIX. “Wind farms: Interview of Malone and Johnsburg residents” [12].

Mills, Erin (March 8, 2009). East Oregonian. “Loud as the wind: Wind tower neighbors complain of noise fallout” [13].

Miller, Scott. A-News, CTV Globe Media. “Wind Turbines Driving People From Their Homes” [14].

Tremonti, Anna Maria (April 14, 2009). The Current, CBC Radio One. “Wind Turbines: Health” [15].

CBC News. April 14, 2009. “Wind turbines causing health problems, some Ont. residents say” [16].

Buurma, Christine (April 21, 2009). Wall Street Journal. “Noise, Shadows Raise Hurdles For Wind Farms” [17].

CTV Toronto (April 22, 2009). “Reports of wind farm health problems growing” [18].

Canadian Press (April 23, 2009). CBC News. “Formal study needed into health effects of wind turbines, doctor says” [19].

Miller, Scott. A-News, CTV Globe Media. “Daughter’s Earaches Blamed On Wind Farm” [20].

Epp, Peter (May 5, 2009). “Survey points to health woes arising from wind turbines” [21].

Mayne, Paul (May 7, 2009). Western News. “Is public’s health blowing in the wind?” [22].

Delaney, Joan (May 13, 2009). The Epoch Times. “Wind turbines blamed for adverse health effects” [23].

Alteri, Beth (May 15, 2009). WLBZ2. “Does wind turbine noise affect your sleep or health?” [24].

Hale, Caleb (May 23, 2009). Southern Illinoisan. “Health can be a key issue when living near wind farm” [25].

Hessling, Kate (June 4, 2009). Huron Daily Tribune. “Solutions sought for turbine noise” [26].

Boles, Stephen (June 7, 2009). Red, Green and Blue. “Wind Turbine Syndrome: Are wind farms hazardous to human health?” [27].

Kart, Jeff (June 11, 2009). Bay City Times. “Wind turbine noise is rattling some residents in Michigan’s Thumb” [28].

Walsh, Bill (June 19, 2009). WNEM. “Wind Farms Ruining Quality of Life?” [29].

Hundertmark, Susan (June 24, 2009). Lucknow Sentinel. “St. Columban residents get informed on wind turbine health concerns” [30].

Yoshida, Noriyuki; and Yasuda, Koichi (July 1, 2009). Daily Yomiuri. “Wind power has its own environmental problems” [31].

ABC News (July 15, 2009). “Wind turbine noise ‘forces’ couple out” [32].

Pagano, Margareta (August 2, 2009). The Independent. “Are wind farms a health risk? US scientist identifies ‘wind turbine syndrome’” [33].

Martin, Daniel (August 2, 2009). Daily Mail. “Living near a wind farm can cause heart disease, panic attacks and migraines” [34].

Stewart, Linda (August 3, 2009). Belfast Telegraph. “Is it dangerous to live close to wind turbines?” [35].

Woodrow, Shane (August 6, 2009). WIN TV. “Windfarm Research” [36].

Anne Ravana (August 7, 2009). Maine Public Broadcasting Network. “Discontent of Mars Hill Residents Leads to Lawsuit Against First Wind” [37].

Baca, Nathan (August 11, 2009). KESQ. “Migraine, Wind Turbine Connection Still Being Examined” [38].

Lynds, Jen (August 12, 2009). Bangor Daily News. “Mars Hill windmills prompt civil lawsuit” [39].

A Current Affair (August 14, 2009). Nine-MSN. “Electricity nightmares” [40].

Wind Concerns Ontario (August 16, 2009). “Wind Victims Gagged and Silenced in Ontario” [41].

ABC News (August 18, 2009). “Pyrenees Shire questions wind farm noise” [42].

Wilson, Lauren (August 22, 2009). The Australian. “Farmers flee as turbines trigger despair” [43].

Wilson, Lauren (August 24, 2009). The Australian. “No relief for land owners affected by wind farms” [44].

ABC News (August 28, 2009). “Govt urged to probe wind farm illness claims” [45].

ABC News (September 4, 2009). “Qld noise experts to test Waubra wind farm” [46].

Hall, Cheryl (September 4, 2009). Stateline Victoria, ABC. “Wind Farms causing head spins” [47].

Reading, Lyndal (September 7, 2009). Weekly Times. “Anger over wind turbine noise” [48].

Chatham Daily News (September 22, 2009). “Wind turbines still a problem for some” [49]

Brown, Judy (September 30, 2009). Farm Country. “Wind turbines generate health, farming concerns”.

Stevens, Kim (October 15, 2009). The Courier. “Health check at Waubra wind farm” [50].

Whittle, Julian (October 22, 2009). News & Star. “Living near turbines is ‘mental torture’, Carlisle inquiry told” [51].

Vivian, Richard (November 12, 2009). Orangeville Banner. “Answers definitely not blowing in the wind” [52].

Vivian, Richard (November 16, 2009). Orangeville Banner. “No proven link exists between wind turbines, health problems” [53].

Vivian, Richard (November 19, 2009). Orangeville Banner. “MOE pledges ongoing research on turbines, health” [54].

CBC News (November 18, 2009). “Wind power health effects queried by municipal group” [55].

Annis, Robert (November 19, 2009). Indianapolis Star. “Boone County looking into wind farm health fears” [56].

Crosby, Don (November 20, 2009). Owen Sound Sun Times “Bruce seeks wind turbine health study” [57].

Lam, Tina (November 24, 2009). Detroit Free Press “Living by wind farms no breeze, some say” [58].

Yomiuri Shimbun (November 29, 2009). “Govt to study effects of wind farms on health” [59].

Leake, Jonathan, and Byford, Harry (December 13, 2009). Sunday Times. “Officials cover up wind farm noise report” [60].

White, Leslie (December 24, 2009). Weekly Times. “Report critical of wind farms” [61].

Braithwaite, Chris (December 30, 2009). Chronicle [62]. “Wind tower neighbor bought out for health reasons” [63].

Schliesmann, Paul (January 16, 2010). Whig-Standard. “Wind turbines: Expert says people are suffering health problems from being too close to structures” [64].

Ito, Aya; and Takeda, Tsuyoshi (January 19, 2010). Asahi Shimbun. “Sickness claims prompt study of wind turbines” [65].

Squair, Sylvia (February 4, 2010). “Throwing Caution to the Wind” [66].

Hall, Cheryl (February 19, 2010). Stateline Victoria, ABC News. “Claims of wind farm illness” [67].

Bryce, Robert (March 1, 2010). Wall Street Journal. “The Brewing Tempest Over Wind Power” [68].

ABC News (March 4, 2010). “Govt to investigate wind farm complaints” [69].

Fox Business (March 4, 2010). “Wind Farms Causing Health Problems?” [70].

Gray, Louise (March 6, 2010). Telegraph. “Noise complaints about one in six wind farms” [71].

Martin, Steve (March 16, 2010). Ballarat Mornings, ABC Victoria. “Wind Turbine Syndrome with Dr Nina Pierpont” [72].

Snyder, Paul (April 1, 2010). Daily Reporter. “Landowners sue Invenergy over Forward Wind Energy Center” [73].

Spolar, Matthew (April 12, 2010). Concord Monitor. “Effects of turbines in question” [74].

Kottke, Colleen (April 18, 2010). Fond du Lac Reporter. “Oakfield couple files PSC complaint over wind farm” [75].

Roper, Matt (April 19, 2010). Daily Mirror. “Couple driven out by noisy wind turbines sue for £380,000″ [76].

BBC News (April 27, 2010). “Lincolnshire windfarm rejected to help autistic boys” [77].

Oike, Yuki Tsuruta (April 30, 2010). “Japanese conference against big wind” [78].

Mulholland, Jessica (March 1, 2010). Governing. “Are Wind Farms a Health Risk?” [79].

Snyder, Paul (May 6, 2010). Daily Reporter. “Wind farm property sells at sheriff’s sale” [80].

O’Gorman, Josh (May 7, 2010). Rutland Herald. “Hospital hosts wind debate” [81].

Craddock, Chelsea (May 16, 2010). Watertown Daily Times. “Hospital shows off balance center” [82].

De Long, L. Sam (May 26, 2010). Watertown Daily Times “Another health problem caused by turbines” [83].

AAP (May 27, 2010). Herald Sun. “Sick residents claim wind farm ‘torture’” [84]

WNEM (May 28, 2010). “Homeowners File Lawsuit Over Wind Turbines” [85].

Weaver, Alex (May 29, 2010). The Standard. “An ill wind blows in” [86].

McConville, Christine (June 2, 2010). Boston Herald. “Falmouth wind-turbine noise has local residents whirling” [87].

Simpson, Barbara (June 2, 2010). Delhi News-Record. “A quiet room of their own: Residents impacted by wind turbines sleep in Delhi” [88].

Sellars, Paul (June 3, 2010). Weekly Times. “Wind turbine illness claims” [89].

Lazzaro, Kellie (July 5, 2010). ABC News. “Residents reject wind farm health findings” [90].

Australia.to News (July 27, 2010). “Family First Senator seeks enquiry into health effects of wind farms” [91].

Hugus, Elise R. (July 27, 2010). “Bylaw in the Works to Regulate Turbine Noise” [92].

Saturday, August 14, 2010

State probing officials at Cape

The state attorney general's office is investigating allegations of misconduct by "certain" town officials in connection with the development of wind farms.

John T. Milgrim, spokesman for the attorney general, confirmed that a letter was sent to the town and its attorney Friday afternoon informing them an investigation had been launched.

Mr. Milgrim also confirmed that two senior members of Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo's staff, Deputy Chief of Staff John B. Howard and Henry M. Greenberg, executive division counsel, were in Cape Vincent about two weeks ago conducting interviews of "parties interested in wind power."

Mr. Milgrim declined comment on details of the investigation, including what prompted it or which town officials may be its focus.

According to the letter, obtained by the Times, the attorney general has told the town it must preserve all town documents, including those of the Town Council and Planning Board, and the town is not to delete or purge any records until the investigation is complete.

The attorney general's office is specifically requesting information about any present, past or future wind farm development or siting of the farms, as well as all information regarding wind turbines, wind power and related facilities or wind power projects.

The office wants all information about wind farm development compiled since Jan. 1, 2005, "whether considered, planned, attempted or completed, including, but not limited to permitting, licensing, construction and energy production."

By Aug. 28, the attorney general's office wants:

■ All documents relating to town action on wind farm development, including, but not limited to, board minutes, board packages, resolutions, voting records, communications, permits, applications and licenses.

■ All communications between or among town officials and any company engaged in wind farm development.

■ All documents concerning any financial relationship between a town official, or their relatives, and a company engaged in wind farm development, including, but not limited to, any financial disclosures filed with the town and any board minutes reflecting any such disclosures.

The attorney general's office is asking that town Supervisor Urban C. Hirschey and Planning Board Chairman Richard J. Edsall, as well as members of the Town Council and Planning Board, be made available for interviews. The office also wants to talk to anyone else who served on either board since Jan. 1, 2005.

Acciona Wind Energy USA has proposed a 51-turbine St. Lawrence Wind Farm for the town and BP Alternative Energy has an active application for the 62-turbine Cape Vincent Wind Farm. The proposed projects have caused controversies between pro- and anti-wind advocates, including allegations of conflicts of interest among town officials.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Harris Beach influence criticized in Buffalo

A bond contract for a Buffalo project that went to the Harris Beach law firm has raised conflict-of-interest concerns and involved a local lawyer in a debate about how much influence he has, even when he doesn't exercise it.

In a front-page story Thursday, The Buffalo News reported suggestions by the Public Accountability Initiative of Buffalo that Harris Beach should not have been chosen as bond counsel for the Canal Side project because Harris Beach partner Mike Townsend of Perinton chairs the New York Power Authority.

The Power Authority is financing more than $100 million in bonds for the project over 20 years.

So the potential conflict, according to Kevin Connor, co-director of the Public Accountability Initiative, is that Harris Beach stands to make $50,000 to $100,000 from its role as bond counsel while working with an agency chaired by one of its partners.

Canal Side is a mixed-use development originally devised to attract Bass Pro Shops, a sporting goods retailer. Although Bass Pro has since pulled out, the project is moving ahead and could consist of 1 million square feet on the Lake Erie waterfront.

Another state agency, Empire State Development Corp., is overseeing Canal Side, and chose Harris Beach.

An Empire State Development official was quoted by The Buffalo News as saying the selection of Harris Beach and Townsend's position with the Power Authority were "merely coincidental."

Although Townsend wasn't involved in the selection of Harris Beach, Connor said Townsend should have disclosed to Empire State Development that he was a Harris Beach employee.

According to Harris Beach officials, Townsend was out of the office traveling on Thursday and could not be contacted. The officials said nothing was unusual in how the firm was selected.

"We have represented the Empire State Development Corp. for well over a decade and are privileged to do so," said Harris Beach's William Albert.

A scan of past stories in The Bond Buyer, an industry news magazine, shows Nixon Peabody, another large Rochester law firm, is also used regularly by Empire State Development as bond counsel.

Harris Beach's website notes Townsend's membership on the Power Authority board began in 2004. He became chairman in 2008. He also is on the board of the state Energy Research and Development Authority and serves as counsel to the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Power Authority drags feet on FOI request on off-shore wind farms

The New York Power Authority, which is considering private-sector proposals to erect offshore wind turbines, has failed to fully respond to a legal request made two months ago by the Democrat and Chronicle for information about the proposals.

The authority is promoting construction of one or more wind farms in the New York waters of Lake Ontario or Lake Erie, an idea that has stirred considerable controversy in shoreline communities. Because of that controversy, local officials and activists have also expressed interest in obtaining the information sought in the request.

An authority lawyer is nearly four weeks overdue in answering an administrative appeal filed by the Democrat and Chronicle. The appeal seeks reversal of a decision by a different authority official to deny public access to any documents from the wind-farm proposals.

A spokeswoman for the Power Authority, Connie Cullen, said Tuesday that the Democrat and Chronicle's appeal "is still under review" by the authority's executive vice president and general counsel, Terryl Brown. The appeal was filed June 30 with an addendum the following day. Under a provision of the Freedom of Information law, Brown should have responded no later than July 16.

The authority said it received on June 1 five formal proposals for the wind farms from wind-energy developers, but it has declined to provide any details. The proposals are being considered behind closed doors, and Power Authority officials have said they would only reveal the winning proposal or proposals when the agency's trustees vote on the matter. They've said that likely would not occur until early next year.

Public 'very interested'

Releasing information about the proposals now would make it harder to negotiate a good deal and be unfair to the businesses involved, officials have maintained. In its appeal, the Democrat and Chronicle argued that revealing basic information about the proposals would not impede a contract award.

"It's clear that the public is very interested in this topic and has a right to know what has been proposed. We urge the Power Authority to release this information immediately," said Karen Magnuson, editor and vice president/news of the Democrat and Chronicle.

One fundamental element of the proposals that remains a mystery is where the developers have proposed to build their wind farms, which would feature groups of turbines towering more than 400 feet above the water. The proposed locations are the subject of much speculation on the part of opponents and shoreline residents, who continue to lobby elected officials on the topic.

Information needed

In recent weeks the town boards in Greece and Webster have voted unanimously to oppose the authority's project, and Monroe County legislators have been considering a resolution of their own.

"I didn't file an FOI, but I've requested information and not gotten any," said Ronald Nesbitt, town supervisor in Webster, where the Town Board cited the scarcity of details when it voted 5to0 last week to oppose the project.

In particular, he mentioned a rumor that Irondequoit Bay would be used as a construction staging area if turbines were built off the Monroe shoreline. No one knows if it's a pie-in-the-sky idea or a concrete proposal. Nesbitt said that rumor, and the town's inability to prove or disprove it, is largely what convinced board members to oppose the project.

"We need to read through concrete information. That's all I'm looking for," he said.

Nesbitt, citing his 15 years' experience in government, said he's learned to be wary of an agency that won't talk about a proposed project. Those are the agencies, he said, that want to "just ram it through and take it home."

"That's what some people are afraid of. I can see it. I know how processes work," Nesbitt said.

Al Isselhard, who lives on the Lake Ontario shoreline in Wolcott, Wayne County, and helped start an opposition group called Great Lakes Concerned Citizens, said he believes the authority has a self-serving reason for not releasing information about the proposals.

"They know that if they told people the potential locations the developers have picked ... there would be more organization specific to those areas to put up a fight against these locations," he said.

Isselhard filed his own FOI with the power authority late last year, a seemingly simple request for the sign-in sheets at a public meeting that he and dozens of other people had attended on the wind-farm project. He was given sheets, but information was blacked out and at least one sheet — the one that had his own name on it — was withheld.

"They have nothing but contempt for the FOIL law. That's from experience," Isselhard said.

Robert J. Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, said he believes the authority has a legal obligation to make the documents public.

"If the deadline for submission of bids has been reached, in my opinion there is no way disclosure of the names of the bidders or basic details about the bids could impair the ability of the Power Authority to get the best deal for the taxpayer," he said. "In some instances, I would think that disclosure would enhance the ability of the government to make a better deal, not diminish their ability."

The Democrat and Chronicle's initial FOI law request was made June 10. It received no acknowledgment of the request within five business days, as required by the law. When no response was received by the end of the month, the Democrat and Chronicle made use of a part of the law that allows an administrative appeal to be filed if an agency ignores an FOI request.

Authority's position

The day after that appeal was sent via e-mail to the authority, the Democrat and Chronicle received an e-mailed response denying the initial request on the grounds that disclosure would "impair present or imminent contract awards." The authority's records access officer also said she had e-mailed an acknowledgment within the five-day window, though the Democrat and Chronicle had no record of receiving that response.

The Democrat and Chronicle then filed an addendum to its appeal, refuting the points made in the belated denial.

The FOI law doesn't provide for fines when public officials do not abide by the law. But the law does allow a party who challenges an appeal in court to seek attorney's fees and related costs when the agency had no "reasonable basis" for denying the request or "failed to respond to a request or appeal within the statutory time."


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Scientist Believes What You Can't Hear Can Hurt You

A wind turbine is a rotary device with a gigantic propeller whose span can be as big as a football field. That propeller turns in the wind to generate electricity. Although wind farms are more often found in Europe than in the United States, they’re rapidly becoming more popular here as a green energy source, which most people consider that a good thing, except the rotors of wind turbines also generate noise, particularly in the infrasound range that some people claim makes them feel sick.

Infrasound is a subset of sound broadly defined as any sound lower than 20 Hertz (Hz), which is the lowest pitch that most people can hear. It’s all around us, even though we might only be barely able to hear a lot of it. The whoosh of wind in the trees, the pounding of surf, and the deep rumble of thunder are natural sources of infrasound. Whales and other animals use infrasound calls to communicate across long distances. There is also a wide range of manmade infrasounds, for example, the noise generated by industrial machinery, traffic, and heating and cooling systems in buildings.

Since frequencies that low can’t be heard, many scientists who study hearing have assumed they can’t have any effect on the function of the ear. But a little-known phenomenon related to the infrasound generated by wind turbines is making some scientists challenge the common wisdom that what we can’t hear won’t hurt us.

Alec Salt, PhD, a researcher at Washington University in St Louis School of Medicine who is supported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) studies the inner ear. For years, he and his group have been using infrasound as a way to slowly displace the structures of the inner ear so that their movement can be observed. In their experiments, infrasound levels as low as 5Hz had an impact on the inner ears of guinea pigs.

“We were doing lots of work with low-frequency tones,” says Salt, “and we were getting big responses.” What they were observing in the lab, however, didn’t jibe with the scientific literature about hearing sensitivity, which was in general agreement that the human ear doesn’t respond to anything as low as 5Hz. Since human ears are even more sensitive to low frequencies than guinea pig ears, that didn’t make sense.

Salt and a colleague conducted a literature search, focusing not on papers about hearing sensitivity, but on the basic physiology of the inner ear and how it responds to low-frequency sounds. During the search, Salt found anecdotal reports of a group of symptoms commonly called “wind turbine syndrome” that affect people who live close to wind turbines.

“The biggest problem people complain about is lack of sleep,” says Salt, but they can also develop headaches, difficulty concentrating, irritability and fatigue, dizziness, and pain and pressure in the ear.

Continuing his search, Salt began to see a way in which infrasound could impact the function of the inner ear, by the differences in how inner ear cells respond to low frequencies. In function, our ear acts like a microphone, converting sound waves into electrical signals that are sent to the brain. It does this in the cochlea, the snail-shaped organ in the inner ear that contains two types of sensory cells, inner hair cells (IHCs) and outer hair cells (OHCs). Three rows of OHCs and one row of IHCs run the length of the cochlea. When OHCs are stimulated by sound, special proteins contract and expand within their walls to amplify the vibrations. These vibrations cause hairlike structures (called stereocilia) on the tips of the IHCs to ripple and bend. These movements are then translated into electrical signals that travel to the brain through nerve fibers and are interpreted as sound.

Only IHCs can transmit this sound signal to the brain. The OHCs act more like mediators between sound frequencies and the IHCs. This wouldn’t matter if the OHC behaved the same way for all frequencies—the IHCs would respond to what the OHC amplified—but they don’t. It turns out that OHCs are highly sensitive to infrasound, but when they encounter it, their proteins don’t flex their muscles like they do for sound frequencies in the acoustic range. Instead they actively work to prevent IHC movement so that the sound is not detected. So, while the brain may not hear the sound, the OHC responses to it could influence function of the inner ear and cause unfamiliar sensations in some people.

Salt and his colleagues still aren’t sure why some people are sensitive to infrasound and others aren’t. It could be the result of anatomical differences among individual ears, or it could be the result of underlying medical conditions in the ear that cause the OHCs to be ultrasensitive to infrasound.

Regardless, it might not be enough to place wind turbines further away from human populations to keep them from being bothersome, since infrasound has the ability to cover long distances with little dissipation. Instead, Salt suggests wind turbine manufacturers may be able to re-engineer the machines to minimize infrasound production. According to Salt, this wouldn’t be difficult. “Infrasound is a product of how close the rotor is to the pole,” he says, “which could be addressed by spacing the rotor further away.”

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Some who created wind-power fast track now questioning the goals they set

The Wind Energy Act of 2008, which gave developers a fast track for putting up wind turbines on some of the state’s treasured high ground, was a piece of legislation passed at the time in the name of jobs, energy independence and climate change.

“There is tremendous potential for Maine to become a leader in clean, renewable energy, including wind energy,” said Gov. John Baldacci, who appointed the task force whose report led to the bill. “This kind of investment would create jobs and help to expand Maine’s economy.”

But now, two years after the law was championed by Baldacci, some members of the task force who supported the Wind Energy Act are questioning whether the goals they set for wind power can or even should be achieved.

Critics and even some one-time supporters say the proponents of the law were swept up in a tidal wave of enthusiasm for a technology that turns out to require significant sacrifice from the state, but has little to offer Maine in return.

That issue was faced head-on recently when the state Land Use Regulation Commission was asked to rule on a TransCanada wind project in western Maine.

LURC Commissioner Ed Laverty summed up the problem with the bill: “Our job is to protect the resources in these high mountain areas given the fragile nature, and the rich nature of the resources in these areas, we have to ask ourselves, to what extent can these benefits really outweigh the long-term costs?

Chris O’Neil, a former state legislator who now works as a public affairs consultant to groups opposing wind power development in Maine’s mountains, said that the governor’s vision was fundamentally flawed.

“To fulfill the charge of making Maine a leader in wind power development and to simultaneously protect Maine’s quality of place is impossible,” O’Neil said. The bill constituted one of the most significant changes in the state’s land use laws in a generation: • It weakened long-standing rules that would have required wind turbines “to fit harmoniously into the landscape.” LURC director Catherine Carroll said, “That’s a huge change.”

• The bill cut off a layer of appeal for those protesting state permits for wind power.

• It set ambitious goals for the development of wind power that could result in 1,000 to 2,000 turbines being constructed along hundreds of miles of Maine’s landscape, including the highly prized mountaintops where wind blows hard and more consistently.

• It opened every acre of the state’s 400 municipalities to fast-track wind development.

Baldacci said all this could be done without hurting Maine’s landscape or the tourism industry.

The legislation was based on the report of the Governor’s Task Force on Wind Power Development, whose members all publicly favored wind power development and who, likewise, asserted that their blueprint for wind power development would return substantial rewards and could be pursued without sacrifice.

“Maine can become a leader in wind power development, while protecting Maine’s quality of place and natural resources and delivering meaningful benefits to our economy, environment and Maine people,” task force members wrote.

Now, as wind turbines are sprouting on Maine’s mountains accompanied by heavy machinery, roads, transmission lines, substations, wells and concrete plants, that certainty is yielding to doubt for some. “I think people didn’t have a good appreciation of this, including us, for what the whole thing entails,” said Maine Audubon’s Jody Jones, a biologist who served on the task force. “This process was another step to better environmental policy, but there were clearly flaws.”

And members of LURC have recently indicated they’ll turn down TransCanada’s wind power development in an ecologically sensitive, high-elevation region near the Canadian border. The move was widely seen as a rebuke to the idea that wind power should be developed at all costs and enraged the developer and wind power promoters.

Momentum slipping

That the unanimity behind the wind power law is breaking down does not surprise Jones.

“People live near them, projects have been built, we can touch and feel them in a way that’s not theoretical. There isn’t the momentum for wind power at all costs that there was when the task force did its work,” Jones said.

That momentum may have papered over some significant differences among task force members that are now becoming more obvious.

As they neared completion of their report on wind power development in December 2007, Baldacci made the unusual move of sending his senior policy adviser Karin Tilberg to press task force members to issue a unanimous set of recommendations.

They did as Baldacci asked, and that unanimity, from a group whose members represented prominent environmental groups as well as wind power developers, set the stage for the bill’s unanimous passage through a legislative committee.

Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers didn’t debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, said legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met — the number is likely to be at least 1,000 and perhaps as high as 2,000.

Instead, they got carried along in the wave of enthusiasm that emerged from the administration, the legislative committee, wind power developers and the governor’s task force.

“Wind power was exciting,” said Pingree. “I think legislators had a sense we wanted to be bold and have the state be a real leader in this area — they may not have known how many turbines or the challenges of siting that many turbines.”

Proponents of the bill’s goals say that it addressed significant problems with Maine law that hindered the development of what could be a powerful source of economic development in the state. Law professor Orlando Delogu told the task force that streamlining the regulatory burden on wind power to promote the industry in Maine could mean billions of dollars of investment and employment in the state:

“This energy source, this industry, has the capacity to infuse somewhere between $2-3 billion dollars of new capital investment into [the] Maine economy,” Delogu wrote in a paper included in the task force’s final report to the governor. “By historic standards these are staggering numbers but at the same time this is a level of investment that is clearly within reach — Maine has the critically necessary wind resource.”

Bill sponsor Sen. Phil Bartlett, a member of the wind power task force and a strong advocate of wind energy development in Maine, said in a recent interview that New England has growing power needs and new regulations that require the production of renewable power such as wind. Maine, said Bartlett, has the wind to meet that demand. But the state needed regulations that could help it feed that market swiftly.

“Maine is in a unique position because we have so much wind power potential. We’re in a position to capitalize on that to help Maine people in the region,” Bartlett said.

Task force members roundly praised their chairman, Alec Giffen, for forging unanimity on the report that led to the legislation. They said that Maine is better off with a law that creates regulatory certainty for wind rather than the muddle of old regulations that led to expensive battles over siting projects. And they said that addressing, through the legislation, what the NRCM’s Pete Didisheim called the “crisis” of climate change is critical.

But an investigation by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting of the workings of the wind power task force through numerous interviews and a review of relevant documents reveals a number of problems with the law and its development:

• Appointing wind power supporters to the task force and rushing the legislation through the Legislature failed to address public skepticism about the state’s wind power policy. Issues that may have been aired through a State House debate continue to be raised by a growing number of critics of wind power, who doubt the policy’s premises that wind power brings widespread economic benefits, moves Maine off fossil fuels or can be developed without compromising the quality of Maine’s landscape.

• Members of LURC, who review proposals for wind power development in the unorganized territory, have expressed consternation about the contradictory and perhaps unachievable goals of the Wind Power Act — to promote wind power development, ensure communities get benefits from the development and protect the very parts of the Maine landscape where wind power turbines are likely to be built.

• The designation of “expedited wind power zones” along some of the state’s wildest mountaintops has raised the value of that real estate, since it is now a target for wind power development. That had the unintended effect of creating competition for conservationists who want to protect that land.

• The task force ignored the need for massive new transmission line construction to move wind energy from turbines to market, which could be costly to ratepayers, disrupt habitat and landscape and engender significant opposition from towns and conservation groups.

• At least one significant task force recommendation — to allow the DEP commissioner to modify permits if wind turbines made too much noise — was left out of the governor’s bill that became the wind power law. • One of the most crucial discussions held by the task force — what lands to open to expedited wind power development — is not in the public record. There were no minutes taken or produced for those final two meetings of the task force.

Baldacci a believer

Gov. Baldacci remains steadfast in his support of wind power. He and Tilberg refused to grant the center an interview in person, but Baldacci responded to questions in writing:

“I believe that reducing reliance on fossil fuels for energy in Maine and the region will greatly increase Maine’s quality of place by reducing carbon emissions, slowing climate change from greenhouse gases (which affects our forests, watersheds, oceans and fisheries, agriculture, wildlife and other natural resources), pushing natural gas off the margins in the bid stack and thereby reducing electricity costs, promoting energy security and self-reliance, and keeping Maine citizens’ dollars circulating in Maine and not being sent to other jurisdictions.

“For many people including myself, quality of place includes living in a manner that does not push environmental or safety risks to other places and people.”

Land-based wind power development is certainly not derailed in Maine. But the wind power bandwagon that came roaring out of the State House in 2008 is encountering obstacles that are slowing it down.

“Call it the bloom off the rose, call it the emperor being exposed as having no clothes,” said O’Neil. “As the public learns the truth about the impacts and the benefits of this sort of development, the public is losing its interest in industrial scale wind.”

Noise Study May Be Hammond's Next Step

HAMMOND - After four months of meetings, the Hammond Wind Advisory committee made its first recommendation to the Hammond Town Board: to ask for funding for an ambient noise study to be conducted throughout the proposed wind overlay district for the town.

Wind committee facilitator, David B. Duff, told the town board that his committee was struggling to decide between relative noise standards and fixed noise standards. He said the committee was "confused" as to precisely what the ambient - or existing, background noise - sound level was in Hammond. Mr. Duff also said that the committee, as a whole, had not yet decided between setting site specific noise and setback standards or "average" noise standards that could be used as a blanket policy for the town.

Mr. Duff said that ambient sound levels throughout Hammond would "vary depending on location."

Supervisor Ronald W. Bertram said his research showed that sound studies could be very expensive, to which Mr. Duff countered with another proposal.

"I anticipated the board's answer," Mr. Duff said, "and took it upon myself to make some inquiries."

According to Mr. Duff, two sound specialists, Charles Ebbing and Clif Schneider - who have each made presentations to the wind committee - have offered their courtesy assistance in undertaking such a sound study.

"They are willing to loan us an instrument (to measure ambient sound), and to train committee members on how best to conduct such a study," Mr. Duff said, noting that, "while there is nothing scientific about it, it is a freebie."

Mr. Duff said the pair are willing to set a date and time to meet representatives of the committee in Clayton - and anyone else from the community who is interested in either learning more or assisting the wind committee in conducting the study - for a couple hours of sound measuring education.

Mr. Bertram instructed Mr. Duff to take the discussion back to the wind committee.

"We'll see where it goes from there," Mr. Bertram said.

The sound study endeavor, Mr. Bertram said, might be a good way to get wind committee applicants who were not selected onto the committee involved in the process. Applicants not selected to the committee included Sonja Kocan, Nancy Chase, Jay Benton, Steven White, Ann Root, Thomas Chapman, Jim Misenko, Mary Hamilton, Howard Demick, Larry Fuller, and Kelly Rogers.

The wind committee, composed of Leonard Bickelhaupt, Allan P. Newell, Frederick A. Proven, Dr. Stephen D. Sarfaty, Michele W. McQueer, Richard Champany, Don A. Ceresoli Jr., Merritt V. Young, Ronald Papke, and Rudolph Schneider, will meet again on Monday at 7 p.m. in the village hall.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Webster rejects wind turbine plan

Joining their counterparts from Greece, members of the Webster Town Board have come out in opposition to plans for offshore wind turbines in Lake Ontario or Lake Erie.

Despite the Webster vote and others like it, the New York Power Authority, which is pushing the plan for offshore wind farms, will make no immediate decision on where the farms might be built, a spokeswoman said Friday.

"The Power Authority is keeping its options open concerning the project location in order to listen to the greatest amount of public input possible and to give the many different facets of the general public an opportunity to be heard, including individual citizens, municipal officials and business, environmental, recreational, academic and civic groups," said spokeswoman Connie Cullen.

The Webster board voted 5to0 Thursday night to oppose the authority's proposal for electricity-generating offshore wind farms. The authority has been considering proposals from private wind-energy developers.

"We wanted to side on the side of being cautious, because there's not enough information out there yet. The Power Authority has not provided us with any information," Webster Supervisor Ron Nesbitt said Friday. "If in the future they came forward with information that is more appealing, we could change our position."

The Greece Town Board passed a similar nonbinding resolution two weeks ago. County lawmakers in Wayne, Oswego, Jefferson and Chautauqua counties have come out against the plan. The Niagara County Legislature has endorsed the plan.

"The Webster Town Board listened and acted in the best interests of its residents," said Al Isselhard, a shoreline resident in Wolcott, Wayne County, and a leader of Great Lakes Concerned Citizens.

The group lobbied in Greece and Webster for the resolutions of opposition. Isselhard said the focus shifts to Irondequoit.

A Monroe County legislator from Greece, Republican Rick Antelli, has written a nonbinding resolution of opposition as well. There will be no formal vote, and the period during which other county lawmakers may sign Antelli's resolution has just begun.

The Power Authority said it received five wind-farm proposals on June 1, but it has not revealed any information about them, including where the private-sector developers involved would like to erect their turbines.

A study done for the authority identified five technically suitable areas for wind farms, including a stretch of water in Lake Ontario from Greece on the west to Ontario, Wayne County, on the east, and another off the eastern half of Wayne County. Turbines, which likely would be more than 400 feet tall, would be in clusters two to five miles from the shoreline.

Offshore locations are attractive because winds blow harder and most consistently over water.

Opponents, however, have raised concern about possible aesthetic impact, harm to fishing, boating and tourism, and impact on shoreline property values.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Wind turbines make their way to Herkimer County

A caravan of wind turbines was making its way through the streets of Utica on Wednesday afternoon.

Three trucks were carrying the, on average, 160 foot long turbines, to Herkimer County.

The delivery was still on its way to the Town of Fairfield Wednesday evening, where the site of the new and controversial wind farm is being constructed.

37 turbines are being put up, and a lot of construction activity has already begun on Hardscrabble Road. The project managers estimate that the 37 windmills will be built by December.

There has been discussions with the developer, Iberdrola Renewables since about 2006, said Town of Fairfield Supervisor Richard Souza. Now that the deal is finalized, turbines will soon be in motion generating power and revenue for the Town of Fairfield.

"With the money condition we are in, we need it. If not for this, the taxes next year would almost double," Souza said.

According to the supervisor, the town will see $170,000 per year for 20 years, from the deal.

"What we will start doing this year in our budget is earmarking that money for certain expenditures," Souza said. "So what were doing in the long-run is saving and also not raising taxes."

Despite all the positives Souza says the windmills will bring into the town financially, there are still some who oppose putting windmills in Fairfield.

Carol Riesel says she still hates the thought of windmills in her backyard and her neighbors do to so much so that they are trying to sell their homes before the project is complete.

"Everybody is against it (on her road). I think one of the primary concerns is there was a never a vote. No one ever asked us how we felt about it," Riesel said.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

JCIDA: all jurisdictions must agree to PILOTs

Jefferson County could see repeats of the rancor that accompanied the Galloo Island Wind Farm payment-in-lieu-of-taxes approval at the county Legislature after changes made Tuesday morning.

A payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for any wind power project will need approval from all of the involved taxing jurisdictions, agreed members of the governance committee of the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency.

The committee is updating its uniform tax-exempt policy, which normally allows PILOTs to be approved only by the agency board unless they fall outside of the set policy. The Galloo Island PILOT had exceptions to the current policy, so three taxing jurisdictions were required to approve it.

"I think those communities should run their own shop," board member John Doldo Jr. said. "They ought to have the option of using or not using it."

He wanted to see the approval required on all PILOTs.

"Can a project get to the PILOT stage without approval of the townships?" asked board member Michelle D. Pfaff.

Agency Chief Executive Officer Donald C. Alexander said a project couldn't and he encouraged the board to think about the ramifications on development by leaving every PILOT approval up to the whims of local boards.

"A uniform policy gives developers a notion to talk to their finance people," he said. "It gives them a fixed notion of their cost."

Chairman Urban C. Hirschey agreed with Mr. Doldo on wind power projects.

"There is potential for irreversible damage," he said. "The towns must be trusted to control their own destiny."

Mr. Hirschey referred to the track of development in Cape Vincent, where he is town supervisor, and talked about the potential for conflicts of interest for Town Council and Planning Board members there.

Board member Kent D. Burto said the agency board needs to avoid getting involved in town politics.

"What I see is unfortunately a town that doesn't have control because of the mix of the board and because of that, there are fears and because of those fears, they are looking to the IDA board to resolve them," he said. "That's not the role of the IDA board. We need to look at countywide issues."

The Galloo Island Wind Farm's PILOT was approved by the county Legislature after months of intense pressure. Some members of the county Board of Legislators didn't want to face the same pressures after the Galloo Island vote.

Legislator Michael J. Docteur, R-Cape Vincent, attended the meeting and said he wants to see approval votes on each PILOT instead of passing a uniform tax-exempt policy that would negate the need for taxing jurisdictions to vote.

"Our board did not vote by resolution to charge this group to come up with a UTEP that would overrule the local vote," he said.

"What are you going to do when two taxing jurisdictions support it and one doesn't, which is somewhat likely to happen?" asked attorney W. James Heary. "You will put yourself in a position where if one taxing jurisdiction says, 'No,' you can't do the deal."

Mr. Doldo said, "That community should resolve that problem."

Like the Galloo Island PILOT, the draft policy discussed would allow for agreements to run up to 20 years, instead of the previous 15.

The draft policy includes a separate clause for renewable energy PILOTs, which allows for a fixed base payment per megawatt, increasing each year, and supplemental payments based on high electricity prices. Exact figures would be included in a project development agreement.

In any case, a PILOT already can be approved only after the state environmental quality review and site plan review process is complete. For wind projects, the committee agreed to add that taxing jurisdictions must approve that a PILOT will occur and what the distribution of proceeds will be before the agency can begin collecting and disbursing money.

Normally, PILOT proceeds are disbursed according to the distribution of property taxes among the county, school district and municipality.

"We have to hold up the PILOT until there is agreement among the taxing jurisdictions," Mr. Hirschey said.

"We have used the threat of pro rata distribution to force the negotiations," Mr. Alexander said. "If pro rata is not going to be appealing to people, they will come to terms."

The committee also changed the policy so that all PILOT agreements must include requirements for local labor use and developers must comply with applicable ethics codes. In earlier drafts, that was required just for renewable energy projects.

The full agency board will consider the policy at its meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday in the conference room at 800 Starbuck Ave. If approved, it will be sent to every taxing jurisdiction in the county. They will have 60 days to comment before a public hearing and the agency board makes a final decision.