By MATT LINDSEY
HOPKINTON – Wind developer Avangrid Renewables says the wind overlay zone proposed by the Hopkinton Wind Advisory Board is using their information based on a 2011 proposal and actually encompasses less land than originally planned.
Avangrid spokesperson Paul N. Copleman said that if the town ultimately passes the overlay zone it does not alter their plans at all for the wind project.
“This notion that we’re seeking an expansion of the overlay zone is not exactly accurate. As you know, there is no officially-sanctioned overlay district; the idea that by placing turbines south of 72 represents an ‘expansion’ is predicated on the idea that a draft overlay district, never adopted by the town board, is a baseline to ‘expand’ from,” Copleman said.
“The draft turbine layout that was shared in March, and is mapped out on our website, has 41 turbines (including alternates) spread out on privately leased land both north and south of 72,” Copleman said. “There isn’t a draft layout that envisions 40 turbines north of 72, nor does the effort to locate turbines south of 72 make turbine locations necessarily closer, or more visible, to the Adirondack Park boundary.”
“Arbitrarily drawing a line along 72 is not based on any scientific determination,” Copleman said. “Existing land uses north and south of 72 are compatible with wind energy development, and the present land use can continue even after a wind farm is operational. In fact, the area south of 72 is less populated and includes land which has been heavily logged.”
Lead Senior Business Developer Scott Mcdonald says that the notion that towers being placed south of SR 72 are closer to the Adirondack Park is “not mathematically accurate.”
What the board shows now for an overlay zone borders the park boundary, both men agreed. “What they are recommending is on the park boundary,” Mcdonald said.
“Existing land uses north and south of 72 are compatible with wind energy development, and the present land use can continue even after a wind farm is operational,” Copleman said. “In fact, the area south of 72 is less populated and includes land which has been heavily logged.”
This draft overlay was from more than five years ago and was based on a prior project layout. “It was never a determination that certain areas of the town were and were not appropriate for clean energy development,” Copleman said.
“Sixteen of the possible turbine locations are south of 72, but again, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they would be closer to, or more visible from, the Adirondack Park boundary, compared to the turbines north of 72, depending on the final layout,” Copleman said.
Mcdonald said there are still 36 leases executed. Not all leased land will have wind towers on it. Some land would be used as access roads, maintenance buildings and land to connect to power lines.
“Our footprint on the land is about 2 percent,” Mcdonald said. The majority of the land leased would still be used as it was before, he said.
“Wind turbines have been shown to be compatible with farms, ranches and other professional land uses,” Copleman added.
The layout of the North Ridge Wind Project, the official name for the project proposed for Parishville and Hopkinton, hasn’t changed since it was unveiled publicly in March, Copleman said. The plan still calls for up to 40 turbines.
The plan can be viewed at https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/iberdrola-pdfs/pdf/North-Ridge-Projec....
Both Parishville and Hopkinton are considering increasing setbacks to 2,500 feet from property lines and Avangrid has provided their suggestions to the boards. Nothing official has been decided upon in either town.
Copleman said that there could be changes in wind turbine locations as “it is a long process and many studies need to be done, such as wind, environmental and engineering which are guided by the state.”
If a study shows a location is not ideal, for any reason, Avangrid will adjust their plans, he said.
Copleman was asked if he agrees that not putting wind turbines near the Adirondack Park might be in the best interest of the environment, an opinion given by the Adirondack Council and some citizens recently. Copleman said, “Renewable wind energy production, by virtue of emitting no pollution, creating no waste, and consuming no water, remains one of the cleanest and safest ways to reliably generate energy. The lengthy educational and feedback process in Article 10 is ongoing, and we’re happy that organizations like the Adirondack Council are engaged; that’s exactly what the process is designed to do. We look forward to continuing to work with all stakeholders through the Article 10 process, and letting factual and science-based information guide that process.”
As part of the process of finding suitable land to place wind towers, wind companies “prospect” for viable land.
“Land in Hopkinton and Parishville is conducive,” Mcdonald said. “We look at wind maps and identify favorable areas and this is one of those.”
Rumors circulating have indicated that power lines may need upgrading in order the wind turbines to be tapped into to send power downstate.
Copleman acknowledged the issue and said testing is being done now and it is a multi-year process. He said that should any work need to be done, that Avangrid would be responsible for it, not energy users.
“We can’t just plug into the line – we have to have grid operators explain to us what upgrades to the grid are needed to make it work,” he said.
"We anticipate filing a Preliminary Scoping Statement (PSS), the next formal step of the Article 10 process, in the next month or so,” Copleman said.
The PSS is designed to gather input from the public and interested participants on the scope and methodology of studies to be conducted. Some of the things it does include identifying project-specific studies to be conducted to evaluate potential impacts, any known stakeholder concerns, potential environmental impacts and potential measures to be implemented to avoid or mitigate impacts.
The PSS, which they anticipated filing the week of May 8-12, starts a 21-day public comment period on the scope and methodology of the studies proposed. More information available at https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/iberdrola-pdfs/pdf/2017-04-17-North-R...
Copleman was asked if Hopkinton and Parishville residents are putting up more of a fight or meeting the project with more resistance than other communities have. “Every community is different, and it’s understandable that people are curious, have questions, and want to better understand what a wind farm would mean for their towns,” he said. “We understand that diverse opinions exist, but we also feel the wind farm enjoys immense support in both towns, as folks contemplate an investment that would deliver more than a million dollars a year annually directly into the community.
“We’re still early in what is deliberately a lengthy and fact-driven process, but we still feel this area is a great site for a wind farm that has the potential to deliver significant, long-term local economic benefits to farms, landowners, schools roads and infrastructure.”