A Chicago-based energy company is eyeing four northern Cattaraugus and Allegany County towns for up to 130 wind turbines.
Invenergy, a company that develops, builds, owns and operates power generation projects in North America, Latin America and Europe, is planning a large-scale wind farm called Alle-Catt in the towns of Farmersville, Freedom, Rushford and Centerville.
A separate Bliss wind farm in neighboring Wyoming County is also planned by Invenergy.
Company spokesman Mary Ryan said Friday the total size of the project is 380 megawatts, which would require between 100 and 130 wind turbines. If all the permits are received the project would get underway in 2018 and be completed in two years.
Company representatives have visited the four town boards over the past few months and are reportedly signing up landowners to locate wind turbines on ridgelines. The company website says 16,000 acres in the four counties are under lease.
“They are getting ready to hold public hearings in Freedom and Centerville in July,” Freedom Supervisor Daren J. Whitacre said Friday. “A representative from Invenergy has been to the town board a couple of times. They are signing up landowners now,” he added.
The town would receive a “host agreement” from the company that would include a set amount of money for each wind turbine in the town. Whitacre said the amount could be up to $15,000 a year for each wind turbine over 40 years.
With Invenergy planning to seek a payment in lieu of taxes agreement with the Cattaraugus County and Allegany County Industrial Development Agencies, the town, school district and county would each receive a negotiated annual payment for the life of the P.I.L.O.T.
The town, Whitacre said, has little control over the wind project, thanks to Article 10 which the state adopted in 2011. It takes the job of siting major energy projects out of the hands of local government and state authorities and put the Board on General Siting and the Environment in charge. Previously, municipal Home Rule laws held sway in the decisions on wind turbine projects.
While the town doesn’t have any zoning laws, it does have land use laws, Whitacre said. One provision caps wind turbines height at 450 feet. An Invenergy official said the company was proposing 500-foot-tall wind turbines, and would seek an exemption to the height limitation.
Another limitation the town plans to enforce is the distance from the town to a road, property line or residence, Whitacre said.
Michael Mulcahey, senior manager of business development for Invenergy told the Freedom Town Board the company was looking for sites in the northeast area of the town on the highest north-south hillsides.
That area includes both sides of Route 98, Galen Hill Road, Sandbank Road and Bixby Hill Road.
Town officials in Freedom enacted a one-year wind turbine moratorium on Feb. 27.
Whitacre said that doesn’t prohibit the company from getting landowners to sign leases. “They can do everything but break ground. It looks like they are serious,” he added. “Our town planning board is working on this.”
Invenergy’s website for the project, www.alle-catt.com, contains a map of the study area and other information including dates for two open houses next month.
On July 17, the company plans to host an open house at the Centerville Town Hall from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
The next day, Invenergy plans another open house at the Freedom Town Hall, 1188 Eagle St., Sandusky from 10 a.m. until noon. Draft layout maps, tentative schedules and general wind farm information will be available. Representatives will also answer questions.
Farmersville Supervisor Gerald Chmiel Jr., said Mulcahey told the Town Board in May that with 15 to 20 turbines were planned for the town. With 15 wind turbines at $13,000 per turbine per year, the town would receive $195,000 in host payments.
“For a small town like ours, this is an economic stimulus,” the supervisor said.
Chmiel said the proposed wind turbines exceeded Farmersville’s height requirement as well. The supervisor said the town could limit noise from the wind turbines as well.
“A key point is that each stage there will be changes,” the Farmersville supervisor said. The town plans to seek funding from the company to hire its own engineer and possibly an outside legal firm to assist town officials in the process.
“My role is to keep people informed the best I can,” said Chmiel. He said residents could check progress on the town’s Facebook page or its website at www.farmersvilleny.org.
“With Article 10, New York State has all the marbles,” Chmiel said. The town should get some benefits. “We need to get the best deal we can.”