updated 3/16/11

Wind farm proposals in Cattaraugus County

Few would fault cash-strapped rural towns for considering any industrial development proposal that might bring in needed revenue. Still, planning and town boards are obligated to take a hard look at potential adverse impacts when planning for any large development. Are the financial benefits to the town (not just to a few large landowners) that great? Do they justify hosting projects that can be expected to become public nuisances, generating community complaints?

These basic questions are all that CCCC asks towns considering wind farms to address. Their own residents often do a ton of research trying to sift through the public relations boosterism that surrounds wind farms to weigh the benefits and burdens. Town and planning boards get off on the wrong foot by disregarding such unpaid helpers. Worse, board members are often swayed by direct payments their friends, family or they themselves have been offered or already provided by aggressive developers. Under the heading, "look before you leap," it's worth looking at how the controversy over wind farms is playing out in two areas of the County:

Horizon Wind Energy proposes a wind farm that would span Machias, Yorkshire and Ashford.

Everpower Renewables struggles to meet protective noise limits imposed by the Town of Allegany.

Promoting wind energy facilities without understanding the noise problem has resulted in a significant number of community complaints once wind farms are up and operating, and that has decreased property values, made it difficult to sell residential property near a wind farm, and accordingly over time decreases the host town's tax base, threatening to negate the direct payments to the town by the wind developer.

Nevertheless, the Cattaraugus County IDA has adopted a policy to finance wind farms anywhere in the County. The IDA policy splits $8,000 per MW offered by wind developers into $5,000 for a PILOT plan ("payment in lieu of taxes") IDA would provide to each taxing jurisdiction (school district, county and host town) and up to $3,500 that would be provided to the host town under a host benefit agreement between the town and the developer. This has the effect of substantially reducing proceeds to school districts (which would ordinarily receive the most because its property tax exceeds county and town taxes) and substantially inflating proceeds to towns (because they get up to $3.5K/MW plus their portion of the PILOT). CCCC commented to IDA when the policy was proposed that it should take a hard look at the effect of wind farms on the environment before deciding to finance such projects, but IDA rejected the comment.

Wind energy developers want towns to adopt noise limits of 50 dBA, but this level of noise will increase existing nighttime sound levels by more than 20 dBA, an increase NYSDEC classifies as "very noticeable to intolerable" For more see:

Wind Farm Backgrounder

wind turbine noise

Cattaraugus County IDA property tax exemption policy for wind farms

a new 30-40 turbine wind farm is proposed in the Cattaraugus County
Town of South Valley--stay tuned . . .