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August 29, 2012

 

TCI readies wind farm review

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

Despite some local opposition to the project, the United Kingdom-based firm proposing a wind energy farm in Cortland County expects to submit its draft environmental documents very shortly, prior to the Sept. 27 county Legislature session.
TCI Renewables has aimed to stay within a self-imposed deadline of submitting the draft environmental impact statement by the end of September. TCI also plans to apply for renewable energy credits through the New York State Energy Research Development Authority by the end of September.
TCI Renewables Project Manager Gareth McDonald said Monday the firm is working to complete the draft environmental impact statement. It will then submit the document to the county to be accepted for public review.
McDonald said turbine locations are still in flux, given ongoing negotiations with landowners and the fact that the environmental studies have detected more wetlands than originally anticipated.
McDonald said the firm wants to avoid wetlands because it is easier to get a project permit if wetlands are not affected.
The project has not changed considerably from its initial concept, he said.
“There are minor changes to the project description and layout in the draft EIS due to the studies we’ve been doing all summer,” said McDonald. The firm is still conducting studies and reviewing the document and turbine locations, he said.
Up to 48 turbines will be built on land in Homer, Solon, Cortlandville and Truxton. According to TCI’s earlier plans Cortlandville would have seven turbines, Homer eight, Solon 22 and Truxton 11. But on Monday McDonald could not verify the numbers of turbines in each town, citing ongoing negotiations with landowners.
TCI has come under fire from residents and local officials for not being forthcoming with its plans and for not proposing lucrative enough payment in lieu of taxes agreements or host community agreements.
County Legislator Kathie Arnold (D-Cuyler, Solon and Truxton) has faulted TCI’s proposed PILOT agreement setting payments of $2,500 per megawatt, amounting to about $175,000 a year to be shared among the towns, county and school districts.
Other opposition to the project is coming in the form of petitions and prohibitive ordinances.
Cortlandville released its draft regulations early in August. The draft ordinance limits the height of windmills to 400 feet, something that would be prohibitive of TCI’s proposed 495-foot high towers.
The Solon Town Board last week received a petition signed by 115 residents opposing the proposed development in the town.
McDonald said the firm will have to abide by all local ordinances. He said TCI is planning to submit comments to Cortlandville hoping to get the town to change the proposed allowable tower height. McDonald said the firm would have to re-evaluate the financial feasibility of the project if Solon passes a law prohibiting turbines.
TCI will ultimately have to come before each town board for approval, a process separate from the completion of an environmental impact statement.
The environmental studies are mandated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and serve to address all environmental concerns associated with the project so the towns do not have to concern themselves with areas outside their expertise.
McDonald said the project would not come before town boards for approval until sometime next year, after the final environmental impact statement is completed, something that will be a lengthy process.
Another concern aired by residents is the potential for blasting bedrock to make way for the turbines.
McDonald said “blasting is not anticipated” because the shale bedrock should be able to be chipped away using an excavator.
The turbines would require octagonal footings ranging from about 50 to 65 feet in width and about 7.5 to 11.5 feet below the surface level of the ground, McDonald said.

 

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