The proposed Lighthouse Wind project calls for 47 wind turbines — 39 in Somerset and eight in Yates — standing at a maximum tip height of 591 feet, according to a project layout presented by Apex Clean Energy at a forum Tuesday night.
The forum offered Somerset and Yates residents their first detailed look at the proposed project.
Apex also related that the turbines will stand at a hub, or tower, height of 345 feet, and will have a rotor radius of 246 feet.
The turbines will be spread throughout the towns, due to location restrictions, Project Manager Paul Williamson said.
Williamson said the turbines will have setbacks from roads, waterways and neighboring property lines and structures; the turbines will stand one-third of a mile or more from all non-leasing homes.
The impacts on these non-leasing homes, Williamson said, will be minimal.
Apex stated the turbines will produce light flicker for a maximum of 30 hours per year, and won’t generate sound above 45 decibels.
Rob O’Neal, an environmental consultant with expertise in sound, said that noise level is comparable to the soft hum of the air conditioning in the Lyndonville High School auditorium where the forum was held.
“Infrasound is not unique to wind turbines. It’s everywhere in our lives,” O’Neal said.
O’Neal added that, although larger, technological improvements mean the Lighthouse Wind turbines would be quieter than most existing turbines.
Apex also highlighted the benefits of the project, saying it will bring an estimated $1.5 million in annual tax revenue to the host towns.
“Lighthouse Wind can help revitalize the region by bringing the renewable energy industry to Western New York,” Williamson said in a statement. “Lighthouse Wind desires to be a constructive partner with the host communities, by increasing the tax base and bringing investment that may be best used for local needs.”
Apex is planning to submit its project application to the state Public Service Commission sometime in early 2019.
New York State Public Service Law gives a state-appointed siting board the authority to review and permit major (25 mW or more) electric generating facilities.
Under a preliminary schedule presented by Apex, if approved, construction would begin in the final months of 2021. The construction process would last 9 to 12 months, after which Apex would restore nearby lands affected by construction.
The turbines would be operational for 25 to 30 years, according to Apex.
Before construction comes the Article 10 siting and review process, which would last from mid-2019 until early 2021. The middle six months of 2022 would be devoted to final project design and planning.
Williamson said Apex will hold additional forums over that time, and will keep open its office in Barker.
“We have been and continue to be a consistent presence in both communities at public events,” he said in a statement.
Apex’s claims and assurances often fell on wary ears. Dozens of attendees donned yellow shirts and hats that read “No Wind Turbines.” And close to 70 project opponents turned out for a pre-forum protest, easily dwarfing the 20 to 30 project supporters who rallied before the forum.
Opponents point to separate reports that found turbines wreak havoc on migrating birds, depress property values, and hurt human health through frequent noise and shadow flicker.
Pamela Atwater, president of the anti-project grassroots group Save Ontario Shores, said that by sullying the shoreline, the project could harm the region’s tourism industry.
“There are serious concerns about the project,” she said. “Tourism brings a lot of people into the area.”
Local elected officials have also spoken out forcefully against the project.
Somerset Supervisor Dan Engert said surveys show most residents oppose the project, and claimed most who support it have signed leases with Apex.
Engert also slammed the “tightly scripted” nature of Apex’s forum.
“Apex’s recent actions demonstrate their lack of commitment to any meaningful public participation,” he said.
This past January, the Somerset Town Board adopted a series of zoning laws that ban industrial-scale wind turbines in the town.
Apex slammed those laws as a “wind ban” — a characterization that Engert did not dispute.