‘We’re here for the people’

Wind project still spinning in Portland

PORTLAND — Emergya Wind Technologies (EWT), a wind turbine manufacturer, has been working with the town of Portland for about two years now in the hopes of building turbines in the town and assisting residents with their energy needs.

EWT is a decade-old company based out of the Netherlands, but has global activity. They have wind technology in Europe and the United States. They manufacture a medium-sized wind turbine that produces one megawatt. The company focuses on community distributed generation, which means using the power in the same place it is generated.

The company has been working with the town of Portland for about two years, calling it their “signature project” in the United States. Portland passed a moratorium on any energy companies coming into the town until May 2020 and then extended it for another six months to finish up writing a new law that is up to date with current technologies. Portland Supervisor Dan Schrantz believed extending the moratorium would be best, just to make sure the town hears the concerns from the public about the new law being drafted.

“The decision to move forward with this project lies entirely with the town,” Eric Holton, Business and Project Development in North America, said. “And that’s the way we want to do it. We take the community very seriously, we’re here for 20 to 25 years and we want to be a good long-term neighbor.”

Within the last year, there has been plenty of dissension regarding the turbines. Signs have been placed throughout the towns against the project and a meeting at the Town Board in September was standing-room only with many of those in attendance voicing their disapproval and concerns for the wind towers.

Though the moratorium still stands, EWT and its team members, Holton and Michiel Fornier, Business and Project Development, Communication and Public Affairs have laid out a proposed plan for the town, incorporating seven of their wind turbines in the town.

The company assures residents that the turbines are designed in a way that minimizes any impact on the surrounding environment.

EWT claims to be different from other wind farms in the area, with many factors attributing to that fact. In some cases, their wind turbines are half the size of the ones being introduced in other municipalities. Each turbine can produce one megawatt each, totalling seven megawatts for the project. Each turbine to the tip of the blade is 326 feet tall.

Each turbine will produce one megawatt worth of energy, which is then distributed to National Grid customers within the area, as the energy is hooked right into local power lines. None of the energy is being sent to other places, such as New York City, contrary to many other projects in the area.

All of the turbines will be located on agricultural land, which is out of the way and not disrupting anything besides the land owners. They will be compensated as well, receiving a yearly check from the company for using their land. The farmers are encouraged to still farm around the 30 to 40 square foot area around the base of the turbine as well.

According to Holton, the project, expecting to last about 20 to 25 years, will bring many benefits to Portland residents and the town in general. Those benefits include utility bill savings by at least 10%, $100 sign-on bonus, and a $1,000,000 benefit over the lifetime of the project going directly to the town, in the form of checks. Portland will be paid a fixed amount yearly to allow this project to run.

“If the turbines are there, the town is getting the money,” Holton said. “We cannot reassess the value of the turbines and pay the town less and it is not based on the amount of energy produced.”

Schrantz says that he hopes everyone can keep an open mind. “People keep relating this project to the Arkwright wind turbines,” Schrantz said. “The fact is that these are much smaller than those.”

A different aspect of a positive from the project would include the Brocton Central School District. Holton explained that the company has been in contact with the schools and talking about taking students on field trips to the turbines to learn more about how they work and the benefits they have on the community and the environment.

The Portland project, if passed, will have a $15 million environmental benefit over the lifetime of it, as there is no need for oil in the turbines and there is no gearbox included on it, which also makes the machines quieter. There is no fuel used and the project does not generate any waste, which makes the project very environmentally friendly in general.

Some concerns for the project are common among many communities. These include the sound of the turbines and another issue that is known as shadow flicker. Holton explained that there is not significant sound that comes from the turbines. There is a “whoosh” sound that comes from the blades passing the tower, but from far away it can not be heard. There is no gearbox, as mentioned earlier, which ultimately reduces the noise produced.

According to Holton, another concern about sound coming from the turbines is actually one that can not be heard by humans. This is called infrasound, which is commonly perceived as having negative health effects, though scientifically is not backed up. “This commonly comes up as a concern, but it is pretty much universally dismissed, time and time again,” Holton said.

Another common concern among residents is something called shadow flicker, which is when the blades pass in front of the sun for a few minutes a day. “This is not a huge concern in Western New York because it’s not very sunny in the area,” Holton said. “If this becomes a problem for residents, there is an easy fix which we are willing to do, which is shutting down the turbine for those few minutes.”

Schrantz explained that the biggest concern for him and the board is to listen to the residents. “We’re here for the people. We want to make the best decision for the residents,” Schrantz said. “We want to educate and if they ultimately don’t want it we won’t do it. I’m just here representing the people.” Another concern from Schrantz’s point of view is the effect they will have on property value and whether it will deter people from moving in and investing in property in Portland.

According to Holton and Fornier, the biggest difference about EWT is that it will be the same company through the whole entire project, instead of how other turbine companies work, by selling them after they are built. “We will be at these turbines every year, a couple times a year,” said Holton. “We encourage people to come and ask us questions.”

Residents can reach out through the website, http://www.communitywind.energy/. There are two informational sessions that will be virtual, which is where the EWT team will go through the project in detail, explaining the benefits and concerns of the project. They are set for today and July 22 at 7 p.m. Registration is encouraged but not required. Both information sessions are the same. Those interested can register by going to their website at ewtdirectwind.com.


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