Apex Clean Energy, the company planning to build a 33-turbine wind farm in the Orleans County town of Barre, has opened a community grant program.
“This is a difficult time for all New Yorkers and we want to step up and do what we can to support both short-term needs and long-term investments in Barre and Orleans County,” said Carmen O’Keefe, project developer for Heritage Wind, the name of the wind farm project. “This grant program gives us a meaningful way to support the things that this community decides it needs most.”
The company is making $4,000 available for grants each quarter of the year, with applications for the first quarter due April 30. If an application demonstrates sufficient need, the company said it may not wait until the deadline to make an award.
Grants will be considered for projects in Barre that promote these areas: healthy communities, economic development, environmental sustainability and promoting education. Details on the categories and information on how to apply are available online at www.heritagewindpower.com/grant.
Apex has submitted its application to build the project to the state, which it expects will determine whether the application is sufficient or needs more information around June. Once the application is deemed complete, a company spokesman said, a 12-month clock begins in which the state decides whether to approve the project.
Apex originally had also proposed another nearby project, Lighthouse Wind, in the nearby towns of Somerset, Niagara County, and Yates, but has not submitted an application to the state for that project.
Heritage Wind is moving forward on its plans for a 33-tower wind farm in the Orleans County town of Barre and just gave public notice that it plans to submit a construction application to the state Jan. 31.
The project is one of two that Apex Clean Energy has under consideration for Western New York, though the Lighthouse Wind project in Somerset, Niagara County, and Yates, Orleans County, is temporarily on hold. A third project, Stockbridge Wind in Madison County, is also planned.
The Heritage Wind project, if built, would involve 33 wind turbines generating a combined 185 megawatts, or enough power to supply 45,000 homes. A spokesman said similar projects have taken three to six months to get to a public hearing stage. Public hearings would be held in the project area. Heritage would hope to begin construction in 2022.
The project would also provide revenue for landowners hosting the turbines and construction jobs.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced this month orders to the state Public Service Commission and the NY State Energy Research and Development Authority to develop reduced pricing structures for developers of alternative power projects such as wind in order to encourage further development of those energy sources.
Cuomo has set a goal of zero carbon emissions from the generation of electricity in New York by 2020. As a result, his policies have been shoring up wind and solar power as an alternative to burning coal, oil and gas.
Additional information on Heritage Wind’s application, which is going to a state siting board, was not available. Information on the company is available on the Heritage Wind website.
Apex Clean Energy unveiled details of its Lighthouse Wind project proposal in Niagara and Orleans counties Tuesday night, drawing a crowd of some 300 people and a protest from some local residents.
The audience gathered for the presentation at the school in Lyndonville, Orleans County, listened quietly, with a majority offering applause after each presenter spoke. At least 20 people wore the yellow caps and T-shirts of the Save Ontario Shores group, which opposes the project, and withheld applause.
Meanwhile, some SOS supporters rallied outside near a pop-up shelter in a corner of the school parking lot with their protest signs, which weren’t allowed in the school auditorium. So many cars filled the parking lot that dozens were parked along both sides of the road in front of the school.
Paul Williamson, senior development manager for Apex Energy, said the company had waited to share maps showing the layout of the towers until now, when it has signed lease agreements with property owners. Additional meetings and details will be made available when new information is available, he said.
Key details of the project:
47 turbines, with 39 in the Niagara County town of Somerset and eight in the Orleans County town of Yates.
Each structure will be 345 feet tall measured at the rotor, 591 feet tall at the tip of the blade when it’s straight up, with a rotor circumference of 246 feet.
Applications for state approvals will probably be filed in winter of 2019, review will likely take two years, construction another year and the project could start generating power in 2022.
A total of 197 megawatts would be produced by the power project.
Expected location of the turbines were included on maps shared in the school lobby and online.
Setbacks of at least one-third of a mile from homes of residents who don’t have a turbine on their property, and a mile from the Barker school in Niagara County. Railroad tracks and environmentally sensitive areas were also avoided.
An estimated $1.5 million annually in taxes and payments to host communities, not including rent paid to landowners where turbines are built.
During the nearly 90-minute presentation and the hour for questions that followed, the group described expected impacts of the project on wildlife and people living near them, from construction traffic to noise and light flicker caused by the spinning blades.
“The sounds generating from this project will never exceed 45 decibels” at the home of residents who are not hosting a turbine, Williamson said.
Sound expert Rob O’Neill of Epsilon Associates later compared that to the sound level in the auditorium when no one was speaking, which reached 48 to 50 decibels owing mostly to the noise produced by the room’s ventilation system. He later explained that the top sound level will occur only at times when wind is blowing the strongest.
Williamson said additional site studies are needed before the company is ready to file for state approval, and might cause the exact layout of the project to change. Both towns’ boards have already issued statements opposing the projects, but Apex officials said the current law puts utility siting jurisdiction in the hands of state officials.
Responding to questions about potential bird and bat deaths caused by the spinning blades, Apex’s Dave Phillips, vice president of environmental science and permitting, said the company plans to reduce operation of the turbines at night in July, August and September, when bats are most active. He said the state Department of Environmental Conservation estimated that measure will cut bat mortality by 80 percent.
He challenged some studies, though, and said presence of wildlife doesn’t necessarily correlate with mortality caused by the turbines.
After the meeting, SOS President Pam Atwater issued a statement saying: “Our expectations for the information shared at the forum were extremely low and Apex didn’t disappoint.”
She said the format of the meeting, in which audience members supplied written questions to a moderator who selected some to read, was an attempt to silence opponents.
“Apex is attempting to silence majority opposition, so we took our message outside the forum with an ‘Apex Go Home’ rally, a passionate, respectful, old fashioned, First-Amendment gathering,” Atwater said.
Apex representatives, however, said all the questions submitted will be answered on the company’s website.
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