Nearly 40 wind turbines could begin to sprout in two Herkimer County towns as early as this summer.
The project would place 25 turbines in Fairfield and 12 in Norway. The wind farm, which would be operated by Iberdrola Renewables, would produce 74 megawatts of energy annually, officials said.
The turbines would be some of the tallest in the region. The structures would measure 322 feet to the center hub of the turbine or 476 feet to the tip of the blade, said Paul Copleman, communications manager for Iberdrola Renewables. By comparison, the Statue of Liberty stands a little over 305 feet from its foundation to the top of the torch.
“This project has been in the works for about five years, but we're finally making some headway on it,” Copleman said. “Typically, construction of these projects is fairly quick. Depending on weather, the construction could potentially be done after 12 months.”
Norway Planning Board Chair Lauren Watson said since the inception of the proposal, the project has not stirred controversy in his northern Herkimer County town because the turbines would be clustered in a small area. That contrasts with the more sprawling design for the Fairfield turbines.
“There's optimism about this project, but I can see how there might be some worry, too, with the way it stands now,” Watson said. “When anything this big comes in, you want to make sure it's done right.”'It's up to a handful of people'
Although some officials said they're excited for the project that's been in the works since 2005 to finally move forward, residents had mixed reactions.
Some praised the economic benefits of the wind farm, which would bring payment in lieu of taxes funds to the municipalities, pending an agreement that would be executed through the Herkimer County Industrial Development Agency.
“We've been on board since the very beginning,” Cheryl Crossett of Norway said. “It's good for us, good for the environment.”
But others voiced concerns over view obstructions, wildlife disruption and the safety of the structures in light of the turbine that recently toppled at Fenner Wind Park, northeast of Cazenovia.
“They're going to be right next to my house,” Steve Fuller of Teall Road in Fairfield said. “I've got serious safety concerns. In the town, it's up to a handful of people, and it's going to affect our whole community.”
The project is awaiting approvals from the Fairfield Town Board and the Norway Planning Board. The Fairfield board will meet Thursday, Jan. 14, to vote on whether to award a special building permit to the developers.
The Norway board will meet Monday, Jan. 18 where it may vote to approve the project, officials said.
Iberdrola Renewables did not yet respond to an O-D inquiry about which state or other permits it has already secured and which permits are necessary for the project to be built.
The project design has morphed over time, largely due to improvements in the technology used for turbine manufacturing, company officials said.
Although as many as 61 1.5-megawatt turbines were once considered for the project, the scope of the project has been reduced to 37 2.0-megawatt turbines. However, as the number of turbines has dwindled, the height of the turbines has increased because the taller structures spin more easily in the wind, Copleman said.
Fairfield Supervisor Richard Souza said he's most concerned with making sure that if the project is approved, the town takes every precaution to ensure the safety of its residents.
“I can understand that there's good and bad to everything, and some people are concerned with visuals and safety and noise,” he said. “As long as we're dotting our I's and crossing our T's, it will be okay.”
The towns have decided to jointly hire an engineering firm that would oversee the project through the construction phase to ensure the turbines are installed safety, officials said.