By Chris Hoffman
(Town of Madison, Hamilton, NY – Feb. 2012) If you live anywhere near the northern hills of Hamilton in the southeast section of the Town of Madison, you might want to pay attention. A proposed wind farm is poised for approval by the Madison Town Board. Upset residents believe they have been intentionally kept in the dark about the project, which planning for appears to have commenced over a year ago.
The project area comprises almost 7,500 acres south of Route 20 to the north and west of the Madison County/Oneida County border. The western boundary covers property as far west as Sigby Corners and the Albee Pond property to the border between the Towns of Hamilton and Madison on the South.
The developer is EDP Renewables North America (formerly known as Horizon), a subsidiary of EDP Renováveis, the world’s third largest wind energy company, Portugal’s largest industrial group, and one of Europe’s main energy companies.
The project applicant is Rolling Upland Wind Farm LLC (RUWF), incorporated in Delaware on Dec. 21, 2010. A mere seven weeks after its formation, RUWF registered as a foreign limited liability company with the NYS Department of State on Feb. 7, 2011. RUWF proposes to construct a 60MW wind farm consisting of 36 GE-100 turbines, including installation of access roads, all electrical systems, underground collection lines, a substation, a temporary staging area and gravel roads. Each turbine will be almost 500 feet high above ground.
In the meantime, several studies have already been completed, including an FAA study resulting in a determination of “no hazard” completed on Aug. 2, 2011; an environmental assessment report in the name of (mysteriously) “Stone’s Throw Wind Farm” prepared in May 2011; a telecommunications survey conducted by Comsearch; an emergency services report prepared by Comsearch; and bird studies, wetland and sensitive habitat studies that appear to be general in nature and not specific to the project area.
On Dec. 16, 2011, RUWF submitted an application to the Town of Madison for a special use permit pursuant to the Town’s “Windpower Facility Special Use Permit Regulations.”
Even though the application states, “The project map does not provide all details required for the special permit, and Applicant [RUWF] requests a waiver of this requirement at this time,” the Planning Board has accepted the application for review.
A review of the application materials reveals:
The project will produce noise “exceeding local ambient noise levels and will result in an increase in energy use.” However, the materials contain no noise level analysis, as required by Town of Madison regulations. Nor is there an analysis of lighting and its effects on area residents or any study showing an analysis of the effect on viewscapes in relation to existing residences. Windmill towers can be sited as close as 750 feet to an existing residence, and some residences, according to maps provided as part of the application, will be virtually surrounded by multiple towers.
The “List of Landowners Within Proposed Project Area” is not accurate; many residents within the project area are not included. Residents believe the characterization of the area as “residences associated with farms, although a few are for recreational purposes (e.g., second homes)” is grossly misrepresented.
The application states, “The Project may result in one or more large and important impacts that may have a significant impact on the environment, therefore a positive State Environmental Quality Review [SEQR] declaration will be prepared.”
There is also considerable concern among residents about the effects on wildlife. In 2010, the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative (funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind and Water Technologies Program) released a fact sheet on research that confirms that wind turbines kill birds and bats. The proposed project area is a major thoroughfare for Canada Geese, not to mention a native habitat for raptors (including eagles) and migratory songbirds.
Residents believe the application for the special use permit and the draft environmental impact statement as submitted are inadequate and inaccurate, and that it would be irresponsible for the Town to grant the permit at this time; the data are incomplete and information has not been made available in a timely manner to the residents who will be most affected.
Aside from all of these critical issues, the overarching question is this: Why are local residents only just now learning about a massive project that will significantly affect their properties and their lives? Is it too cynical to inquire whether the Town of Madison’s new windpower regulations, adopted on April 14, 2011, were developed specifically in anticipation of this project?
A special meeting of the Town Planning Board to discuss the project will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16, at the Town of Madison’s offices at 7358 State Route 20, Madison, telephone 315-893-7020.
Chris Hoffman lives in the village of Sherburne in her 150+ year-old house where she caters to the demands of her four cats, attempts to grow heirloom tomatoes and herbs and reads voraciously. She passionately pursues various avenues with like-minded friends to preserve and protect a sustainable rural lifestyle for everyone in Central New York.