Portland Town Board approached by wind company

PORTLAND — Arkwright, Cassadaga, Hanover and Villenova: wind turbines are already operational or soon to be constructed in these towns, and some Portland residents would like to add their town to the list.

At last week’s board meeting of the town of Portland, representatives from Netherlands-based Emergya Wind Technologies (EWT), gave a presentation at the request of Portland residents interested in bringing wind energy to the town. The representatives provided an overview about the turbines and possible community benefits. Unlike other turbines in the county, EWT’s would be “mid-size/community scale” DW61 turbines that would stand at a maximum height of 326 feet, as compared to Arkwright’s 492-feet turbines, and Ball Hill Wind’s pending 568-feet turbines in Hanover and 599-feet turbines in Villenova. The 200-meter blades would generate one megawatt of power and meet the following requirements: 1,200-feet set-backs from off-site residences, 489 feet from other structures, 500 feet from the nearest public roads and gas wells and 100 feet from state wetlands.

According to the representatives, the proposed project would allow community members who signed up to receive reductions on their electric bills. The proposed project includes up to 10 one-megawatt turbines on three sites (north, east and west of Brocton) in the town of Portland that would interconnect with the existing National Grid infrastructure.

Mark Odell, district 7 county legislator, was present at the meeting and noted “community benefit” was emphasized. “If this is for community benefit, the populace within Brocton — right in the middle of the sites — are they able to reap any benefits?” he asked. No, said the representatives. Because village residents rely on municipal electric, they would not receive any benefit, as they are not National Grid customers.

Ironically, Odell pointed out, the Portland Town Hall lies within the village and would receive no benefit either.

“Any proposed projects of any kind, whether it’s wind, solar, street lights or ‘clean fleets,’ have to have utility and benefit and, unfortunately, this didn’t muster either, in my opinion,” said Odell of EWT’s proposal.

Because the project would be smaller than a 25-megawatt electric generating facility, it would not be permitted under Article 10 of the Public Service Law; rather, the project requires permitting under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).

The EWT representatives expressed concern than the project might not qualify for federal tax exemptions under the Production Tax Credit, which expires on Dec. 31. As Fredonia resident Mark Twichell pointed out, the SEQRA has not yet been filed, and the process normally requires more than six months.

Odell pointed out that another obstacle to funding the proposed project involves the Chautauqua County legislature’s no-PILOT recommendation to the County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency, which was approved last March. “…It has been demonstrated that the environmental, economic, and community impacts of large wind energy projects of 5 Megawatts or more can be significant and might well have a net negative effect on the County depending on the location of the proposed project,” the resolution states, and “…providing a tax abatement subsidy through PILOT agreements to encourage the siting of large wind energy projects may not be appropriate given the potential negative impacts of large wind energy projects…”

Several members of the public attended the board meeting to share their thoughts on the presentation. Twichell asked the representative how much power the project would draw from the grid to support the turbines. However, his question went unanswered as this information is considered proprietary, Twichell explained.

“As concerned citizens have learned through disclosures in Article 10 proceedings, the amount by which New York state power generating carbon dioxide emissions is reduced by a typical 100MW wind facility like Arkwright is less than 0.05%. We are prevented by knowing how much less than 0.05% because the NYS Department of Public Service is prevented from using the Freedom of Information Act to learn how much power is drawn from the grid,” Twichell said in his public statement.

On Saturday, the OBSERVER published a public notice from the town of Portland that announced a public hearing for a local law for a six-month moratorium on the construction of wind farms while the town works to update and draft appropriate regulations. The public hearing is set for Wednesday, June 26 at 7 p.m. at the Portland Town Hall, 87 W. Main St. “I’m really proud of the town board for their decision,” said Odell of the town board’s moratorium law. “It’s a good start.”

Any town resident is entitled to share their thoughts on the proposed law at the public hearing; a copy is available for review in the town clerk’s office during regular business hours. Portland Town Supervisor Dan Schrantz was unavailable for comment as of Tuesday evening.