Hopkinton Wind Advisory Board won’t expand areas where generators can be built
By MATT LINDSEY
HOPKINTON – The Hopkinton Wind Advisory Board has proposed a Wind Overlay Zone that is nearly identical to one proposed in 2011
It will not expand the land windmills can be placed on, thus keeping them away from the Adirondack Park.A request by wind farm developer Avangrid Renewables to expand the wind overlay zone was not agreed upon by the board, according to Jody Wentzel, vice chairman of the Hopkinton Wind Advisory Board.
The board is also considering setting 24-hour decibel limits for the wind towers, different than what the Town of Parishville is considering. Parishville has opted for two 12-hour periods ranging from .25 to .45 decibels.
Avangrid Renewable has suggested hunting camps not be included in any revision to the Town of Hopkinton’s current Wind Energy Facilities Local Law.
Avangrid, a subsidiary of Iberdrola, is heading the North Ridge Wind Farm, which calls for about 40 wind towers to be constructed on land in Hopkinton and Parishville.
“We anticipate filing a Preliminary Scoping Statement (PSS), the next formal step of the Article 10 process, in the next month or so,” Avangrid spokesperson Paul N. Copleman said said. “We believe Article 10 has the benefit of combining state oversight and expertise with an essential role for the local communities in the process.”
Wind Overlay Zone
The Hopkinton Wind Advisory Board put forth the proposal at an April 12 meeting to adopt the original overlay zone from 2011. A public comment period will be held April 26 at the town hall.
Wentzel said the decision was made not to expand the overlay zone to keep the large wind towers away from the Adirondack Park line.
“This issue has already been a detriment to the community and encroaching on the Adirondack Park was not advisable to have a wind project butting against it,” Wentzel said.
Following a public comment period, the five-person Wind Advisory Board will vote on the proposal, where if it passes it would then be voted on by the town.
Wentzel was not sure if that was the last step in the process or if it would then need to be approved by the county.
Avangrid Renewable spokesperson Paul N. Copleman said he is “aware” that the Hopkinton Wind Advisory Board has been discussing their overlay zone, but it’s their understanding that there is no formal overlay zone in Hopkinton yet.
The Hopkinton Wind Advisory Board discussed setting a decibel limit for the noise the wind towers can produce.
Nothing was formally proposed as the board is gathering more information.
Wentzel did say the board is looking at creating a 24-hour sound limit, versus a pair of twelve-hour thresholds.
“It would be a single noise allowance instead of day and night limits,” he said. He said other towns across the northeast with wind towers had used a similar system and he was unsure if day and night decibel limits were realistic.
“We are going to look at the rationale behind other areas and their sound choices,” Wentzel said.
In Parishville, the town is looking to change local law limiting decibels to .35 at night and .45 during the day.
The Planning Board chair, Fred Wilhelm, said that if they lowered the levels that much that it raises concerns for Avangrid and company officials told him they weren’t sure they could get towers that quiet, thus making the project impossible?
Copleman’s response was, “we take community concerns regarding potential real or perceived impacts on residences in a project area very seriously, so minimizing the wind farm’s potential impacts guides the siting and individual placement of turbines. We look to the best available science to guide us, and based on the findings and scientific merit of the more than 80 available peer-reviewed scientific studies, the weight of evidence is that properly sited wind turbines (sound and distance) do not cause adverse health effects.
Parishville is also looking to change how close the towers can be to a participating landowner’s home and a non-participating landowners property line. The change would be “five times the height of the tower” (roughly 2,500 feet), which is further away than their previous law of around 1,500 feet.
Copleman says they’ve designed the draft turbine array based on the existing law, the best available science, and their own experience managing wind turbine operations in dozens of communities across the country.
Copleman said Avangrid is suggesting “hunting camps” not be included in any revision to the Town of Hopkinton’s current Wind Energy Facilities Local Law.
“We have suggested hunting camps not be included in any revision to the Town of Hopkinton’s current Wind Energy Facilities Local Law,” Avangrid Renewable spokesperson Paul N. Copleman said.
“These structures are not treated as “residences” in other contexts, including in the application of State Building Codes and certain Department of Health requirements,” Copleman said.
Removing the camps from the revisions would allow the wind turbines to be placed closer to the structures. This could impact some seasonal residences.
Copleman says Avangrid’s suggestion regarding “hunting camps” is based on a review of the Town of Parishville’s current Wind Energy Facilities Local Law.
Wentzel said he was unaware of any issues relating to camps. He had only been aware of much smaller wind tower discussion, nothing on an industrial level.
Wentzel said the setback provision applied to the property line, so the structure, whether it be a home or a camp, was a non-factor.
Wind Farm Process
Article 10 was enacted by the NY legislature in 2011 and provides a process for certification of wind farms by the state. By mandating the state’s involvement, the process allows various state agencies, such as Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation, to provide their expertise and input on the siting, evaluation and review of wind farms.
“Even though it is a state siting process, local governments have an important and influential role throughout the process,” Copleman said.
Article 10 is designed to engage communities early and often in a years-long process, allowing them to have considerable input on the entirely of the process.
“It’s too soon to evaluate how Article 10 will impact wind farm siting since no project has gone through the process.”
Copleman says many towns across New York State have already recognized the benefits of wind farms in their communities, and how those benefits can positively affect all community members.
“From tax cuts, to school and infrastructure improvements, to investments in local fire and police departments, these successful partnerships are demonstrating that wind farm development and local communities can work and thrive together,” he said.
Based on projects in the past, Copleman believes the wind towers would lead to six permanent jobs and about 125 construction jobs likely lasting 12 to 18 months.
Copleman says revenue for landowners and farmers could be $500,000 and around $750,000 for the community.
“We welcome that collaboration and have to follow the law when it comes to permitting and operating any wind farm,” Copleman said.
Copleman says Avangrid remains engaged in the community in a variety of ways and makes every effort to attend meetings. “We held a successful open house for the communities just last month which saw more than 100 local residents attend,” he said.
“We’ve shared the approximate timeline previously at board meetings and at our open house, but folks can find it on our website here (https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/iberdrola-pdfs/pdf/North-Ridge-Timeli...). “That spells out the numerous environmental, engineering, and cultural resources studies, among others, we’ll need to prepare, along with their scope and methodology, in order to ultimately apply formally for a project; we’re still very early in a years-long process and all of it is very transparent and encourages local and public input.”
The five stages of the Article 10 process are pre-application, application, administrative hearings, siting board decision and compliance.
If the project does happen in Parishville and Hopkinton, construction could happen as soon as 2019.
Avangrid co-owns the Maple Ridge Wind Farm in Lewis County, and owns the Hardscrabble Wind Farm in Herkimer County. Projects under development include Roaring Brook (Lewis County, permitted under SEQRA and local zoning prior to Article 10); Deer River (Lewis County, PIP filed under Article 10); Mad River (Jefferson & Oswego counties, PIP filed under Article 10); Horse Creek (Jefferson County, PIP filed under Article 10) and Bone Run (Cattaraugus County, to date, no filings under Article 10).