LOWVILLE — Anti-corporate wind farm activists dominated the Deer River Wind Farm hearings on Tuesday, giving personal testaments of their love of Tug Hill and the negative impact they feel the installations have had on the area and the quality of life of the residents.
The two public comment periods held in the Lowville Free Academy and Central School Auditorium were the next step in the Article 10 approval process for renewable energy developer Atlantic Wind after it provided information about the project to those in attendance.
Community members from Harrisburg, Pinckney and surrounding towns spoke of their concerns over the wind farm’s up to 27 turbines and the impact those turbines will have on their lives and the landscape.
Of the combined 14 speakers in the two sessions, only one, Pinckney Supervisor Sherry Harmych, spoke in favor of the project.
The others were all members of the Tug Hill Alliance for Rural Preservation, referred to as THARP. Half of those who spoke are part-time, seasonal or full-time residents in the project area.
“It’s important they feel their voices can be considered when a decision is raised,” said Rebecca Sheldon, co-founder of THARP. “The Article 10 process can be overwhelming and complicated. It makes people feel they can’t make an impact, but this is something they can do: they can feel they did something, they spoke up, they took part.”
Touchstone issues relating to wind turbines like sound disturbances, the “flicker” wherein the turbine blades cast shadows creating a strobe effect, and vibrations were raised by speakers, along with potentially diminished land values, the impact on wildlife and wetlands and myriad negative impacts on the quality of life.
All of the speakers referred to the rural, natural character of Tug Hill as the reason they live there and that the proliferation of turbines negates that beauty.
Karen Reed, who with her husband raised her family on their Pinckney property for over 40 years, said 10 turbines and one weather tower slated to be put up in her area will be on land belonging to absentee owners from Maryland, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and around New York state.
She said she and her husband will have to look at the turbine “monstrosities every day and night as long as we live on Tug Hill but the people cashing those checks will not.”
Some speakers, including Shari Simmons, Copenhagen, is not a resident of the farm’s project area but lives near turbines from the Copenhagen wind farm. Simmons noted she felt an obligation to speak out and warn both the siting judges and the people in the Deer River wind farm footprint of her family’s experiences.
Mrs. Sheldon, who lives in the project area of the proposed Number Three Wind Farm, spoke about the unpublicized carbon footprints of wind farms, including transportation of materials, construction and eventual disposal of the turbines when they phase out.
She also said, “You can’t call the creation of three full-time jobs economic development,” as is often touted by wind farm companies.
She asked siting board Department of Public Service Judge James A. Costello and Judge Daniel P. O’Connell of the Department of Environmental Conservation to assess the Deer River project not as an individual wind farm, but as part of the larger picture that includes two existing and four other proposed wind farms that will total more than 400 turbines if they, along with Deer River, are all built.
“We respectfully ask the siting board to adhere to the most protective measures and, if it [Deer River] is ultimately approved, to adhere to the most protective measures in siting the turbines,” Mrs. Sheldon said.
Atlantic Wind, a subsidiary of developer Avangrid Renewables, is working to gain a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need from the state through the Article 10 review process for its project consisting of nearly 600-foot turbines in the towns of Pinckney and Harrisburg that will generate 100 megawatts of power.
The informational public forums and hearings were hosted by the state Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment, which reviews the large-scale energy projects obligated to complete the Article 10 process for approval.
The siting board deemed Atlantic Wind’s Article 10 application complete last month.
The Article 10 process will continue for the next year and Avangrid aims to have the Deer River Wind Farm operational by the end of 2021.