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Loud Turbines in Cohocton

Residents: Turbines too loud

Atlanta, NY - Several Cohocton town residents want to know why they have to call wind developer First Wind to complain about noise from wind turbines instead of town officials.

Residents packed the town board meeting Monday night, hoping to hear how the complaints will be handled.

According to Joe Bob, one of the town’s code enforcement officers, the town’s wind law specifies exactly how much noise can be made at a certain range.

Bob said the town law states the noise cannot reach higher than 50 decibels at the closest non-participating property line. According to town law, no turbines are allowed within 1,500 feet of a property line without a variance.

The law also sets lower limits for some sounds. Any “pure tone” noise, as defined by the law, is limited to 45 decibels. “It’s in-depth, very methodical, very thorough,” Bob said.

With several residents offering complaints to the town, First Wind and the media, Bob set out how the complaint system works.

First, the town needs to determine the sound levels put out by the turbines. Right now, the town’s wind noise monitoring firm, Massachusetts-based firm Tech Environmental, is trying to monitor 10 turbines around Cohocton for noise at peak operating time.

Bob said the town’s noise monitoring firm tests for noise several ways, including shutting off turbines to check background noise, sheltering the meters from the wind and repeating tests over a period of time. “The problem is, they’re not done yet,” Bob said, adding until a baseline of how much noise is being created, it will be hard to determine what is above the legal noise limit and what is not.

Once that baseline is set, he said, residents can call a toll-free telephone number to lodge a complaint, which rings into the First Wind office in Cohocton. The town code enforcement office, a First Wind representative and monitoring firms hired by both the town and First Wind — but both paid for by First Wind — will set up at the complainant’s residence and monitor the noise. If the noise is over the limit, the turbine will be shut down at peak noise production.

Residents spoke out against the process, saying the noise now is too great to wait for a long study to be undertaken.

“They’re making so much noise, I can’t sleep at night,” Graham said. “The thing is reading 82-110 decibels at some times.”

Graham said he thinks he was lied to when First Wind, then called UPC Wind, offered to place turbines on his property. “They told us we wouldn’t hear anything at 900 feet,” he said. “The noise is so great that my windows are vibrating.”

Graham added he has hired an attorney to pursue the complaint process if needed. “If you’re the code officer, you should be able to monitor these things and enforce this,” Graham said.

Zigenfus said there is little the town can do but follow the procedure it agreed to. “We’re bound by what the law is,” he said. “If we violate their rights under a contract, we could end up in even more trouble.

Steve Trude, one of the heads of Cohocton Wind Watch and co-plaintiff in three lawsuits against the town over the development, said he feels the system should not go through First Wind. “We don’t feel well calling Jane (Towner, a Cohocton-based First Wind official),” Trude said. “The protections need to be tweaked.”

By Bob Clark, The Hornell Evening Tribune

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Cohocton project online?

Project online despite report from grid operator

Cohocton, NY - Despite reports from the operator of the state’s power grid, the 50-turbine project in Cohocton is online.

The New York Independent System Operator, the not-for-profit organization that runs the state’s power grid, stated Friday the 125 megawatt project in Cohocton was not operational, a claim refuted by town officials and later by NYISO itself.

Kenneth M. Klapp, the senior communications and media relations specialist with NYISO, Monday said the information provided by his own agency Friday was incorrect.

“Unfortunately, you were given information on the status of another wind project in Steuben County, which has been proposed for interconnection to the grid,” he said. “In answer to your original question, both phases of the 125 MW wind project in Steuben County (known as Cohocton Wind and operated by First Wind) are currently in service.”

That comes in contrast to what officials at the organization had said previously.

Richard Barlette, manager of government affairs for NYISO, said Friday no power generated at the site has been sold for consumption. “They’re currently under the connection process,” he said at the time. “As far as ‘flipping the switch,’ a ball park figure is December 2010.”

Others contacting NYISO had received similar information, including U.S. Rep. Eric Massa, D-29, who responded to the mistake during a press conference call this morning. “What you’re saying is it’s hard to get a straight answer out of anybody,” Massa said. “There is a lot of misinformation out there.” Massa added much work is left to do on the project, including sound studies that were the topic of discussion at a Cohocton town board meeting Monday night.

Jack Zigenfus, town supervisor in Cohocton, provided The Evening Tribune with a spreadsheet from NYISO showing the project was in service as of the most-recent update of the document, recorded as Feb. 5.

Cohocton officials applauded First Wind for “throwing the switch” on the 50-turbine wind energy development in December, while according to John Lamontagne, director of corporate communications for First Wind, the project was believed to be up and running in 2008. “The time frame was to be by the end of the year,” he said in a Dec. 16, 2008 phone interview.

According to company officials in 2007 — when the company was known as UPC Wind — the project was expected to be up and running about a year after construction began.

Dirt first started moving on the project Sept. 18, 2007, with tower construction commencing in November. Work on the first two towers, complete with turbine blades, was finished Jan. 3. Of the 50 towers, 47 are spread across Lent, Pine and Dutch hills, dominating much of the view around Cohocton, North Cohocton and Atlanta. The three remaining turbines are on Brown Hill to the south of the village, where the project connects to the regional energy grid.

First Wind officials did not immediately return a call requesting a comment.

By Bob Clark, The Hornell Evening Tribune

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Cohocton Noise Warning


Prattsburgh residents get warning on wind turbines

By Mary Perham, Gatehouse News Service

Wind turbines will disturb your peace and quiet, neighboring town residents warned the Prattsburgh town board last week.

"It's like a jet engine landing right behind you," Hal Graham, of Cohocton, said. "It's constant noise."

Graham leased land to First Wind for its 50-turbine wind farm in the town of Cohocton. Tuesday, he spoke during the Prattsburgh board's public hearing on a wind energy facilities permit there. The permit will stipulate certain terms and charge a building permit fee for any wind facilities in the town.

The only wind project currently being considered in Prattsburgh is EcoGen, an East Aurora-based developer. In December, First Wind announced a year's hiatus in its plan to put up a 36-turbine wind farm in Prattsburgh and recently closed its office.
However, FirstWind did complete its larger project in Cohocton, beginning operations there earlier this year.

Graham said he was a strong supporter of wind energy and studied any potential noise problems extensively by observing other wind farms in the state and asking questions.

Both he and a neighbor each have a turbine on their properties, he said.

"When I signed the contract, I was assured there was no noise," he said. "Well, people can't sleep at night, in the winter, with the windows closed. As the wind speed increases, the noise level rises. It rattles our windows ... It's like a jet engine going full blast."

The noise can be heard in neighboring hamlets of Ingleside, Atlanta and North Cohocton, according to Graham and other Cohocton residents at the meeting. Other residents complained about a lack of sleep and disturbed animals.

Click here to read the full Steuben Courier report.

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No Power from Cohocton?

Power grid operator: no power so far to state grid from Cohocton

Cohocton, NY - After years of development, construction, anxiety and lawsuits, the hills surrounding Cohocton have sprouted 50 commercial wind turbines.

Now that First Wind has wrapped up its construction in Cohocton and the turbines are now spinning in the breeze, is that energy being sold?

According to the grid operator, no. And that’s not expected to change anytime soon.

Richard Barlette, manager of government affairs for the New York Independent System Operator — the not-for-profit company that moderates the state’s power grid and gives all power projects the green light — said no power generated at the site has been sold for consumption.

“They’re currently under the connection process,” he said. “As far as ‘flipping the switch,’ a ball park figure is December 2010.”

That connection process contains several steps, Barlette said, which are long and complicated.

“It’s not just sticking a turbine in the ground one day and producing electricity,” he said. “Every plant you build goes through the process.”

The biggest test, he said, is seeing if the grid can handle the extra power — 125 megawatts, in Cohocton’s case.

“We need to know the impact and reliability on the grid. We need to make sure it doesn’t negatively affect the grid.”

NYISO’s word comes in contrast to what town officials have heard from First Wind in the past.

Jack Zigenfus, Cohocton town supervisor, was last told by First Wind that the project was ready to transmit power and he thought it was.

“I received a letter that it had met all the criteria from all the regulatory agencies,” Zigenfus said. “They have to be operating to be obligated to pay the town.”

Zigenfus said the town has received at least $1.81 million from the project so far. The first payment — of $725,000 — came to the town in 2007 from the project as part of the community host agreement, with an additional $937,500 entering the town’s coffers by the end of 2008. First Wind also transfered to the town $150,000 for historical remediation, which the town and village boards hope to put towards renovating the Larrowe House, which currently houses the town and village clerk offices.

He also said he heard from officials at the Wayland-Cohocton Central School District it received the first Payment in Lieu of Taxes check from First Wind.

Cohocton officials applauded First Wind for “throwing the switch” on the 50-turbine wind energy development in December, while according to John Lamontagne, director of corporate communications for First Wind, the project was believed to be up and running in 2008.

"The time frame was to be by the end of the year,” he said in a Dec. 16, 2008 phone interview.

According to company officials in 2007 — when the company was known as UPC Wind — the project was expected to be up and running about a year after construction began.

Dirt first started moving on the project Sept. 18, 2007, with tower construction commencing in November. Work on the first two towers, complete with turbine blades, was finished Jan. 3. Of the 50 towers, 47 are spread across Lent, Pine and Dutch hills, dominating much of the view around Cohocton, North Cohocton and Atlanta. The three remaining turbines are on Brown Hill to the south of the village, where the project connects to the regional energy grid.

First Wind officials did not immediately return messages for comment.

By Bob Clark, The Hornell Evening Tribune

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Night Noise in Cohocton


WIND FARMER REGRETS HE GOT INVOLVED

Says he has trouble sleeping due to the noise.

A Town of Cohocton man tells us that he has a turbine on his property and that there is a wind turbine next door, and because of the turbines, he has trouble sleeping at night. He says he has asked the wind companies to turn the wind turbine off, and he says they won't.

That wind farmer now describes having a wind turbine as the biggest mistake of his life. His complaint about noise is not uncommon. All over the state where the giant turbines are installed, people complain of the noise as well as the fact that shadows often cause problems. The turbines also tend to ruin any beauty on the countryside.

For clues about who this mystery man might be, read the article below. [Ed.]

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Update from Prattsburgh

Dear Folks,

It seems that some of us missed an interesting meeting in Prattsburgh last night. I have spoken to several people who attended and am passing along comments from Arnold Palmer, a landowner in Prattsburgh, who sent me this email.

Just to give you some basics - Prior to the regularly scheduled town board meeting there was a public hearing on the "wind law." Once there is a wind law the town is legally allowed to receive money for building permits from wind companies. They did not vote on the wind law last night - rather they agreed to have a workshop in a couple of weeks to discuss setbacks.

The following is from Arnold:

The meeting was standing room only.

A fellow from Cohocton - Lent Hill Road, [Judge Hal Graham] spoke eloquently about the noise resulting from a 2.3 turbine on his property, how strongly he supported the wind farm concept before they became operational, how completely frustrated he was with the noise level which is so different from what he was promised when he signed a lease, his complete lack of results in trying, now after the fact, to do something about it, how badly he felt about what he'd wrought on his neighbors, and urging the Board to act prudently.

He made the excellent point that, rather than relying on Ecogen or whomever to provide theoretical DB prognostications, the Prattsburgh Board had the option to simply come to Cohocton and listen. He urged them to visit his home and to do so on windy days without giving the wind company a heads up in that, whenever visitors were anticipated, the turbine speeds are slowed down so that visitors are treated to noise levels at 25% or less of what the residents are subjected to on a daily basis. Good discussion about what sorts of setbacks were necessary and what point from which the setbacks should be measured.

The overall tenor of the Hearing and Board Meeting was substantially different that any I've attended in recent memory.

However some things don't change:

The Town Attorney was his usual self, yelling at Al to keep quiet and bristling whenever his posture was questioned by attendees or the Board. Stacy got in a few "you people" epithets in a lengthy self-serving statement describing what a privilege it had been to direct the Comprehensive Plan initiative and remind everyone she was pleased with the Plan and couldn't care less whether anyone else liked the plan, or the people who worked on it or the process under which it was prepared.

When Judge Graham was speaking, the room was silent and he was given the courtesy of speaking when his allotted three minutes were up.

The star of the evening was Steve Kula. He was extremely even-handed on wind related issues, got Harold and the Town Attorney squirming on whether bills (attorney fees and engineering company bills, among others) were being paid properly and transparently or whether they were being sent directly to Harold rather than to the Town who had approved the bills and had them paid. He brought up a number of other equally lightning rod issues about propriety, including asking for an executive session at the end to present a 'legal solution' to end the issues of condemnation and Harold's vote.

So folks, the good news is that the wind law in its present form was not voted upon, and the Board appears to be taking the issue of setbacks seriously. Thanks to everyone who attended last night - the support from this group continues to stay solid, and it is appreciated.

Regards,
Ruth

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