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Opinions on rural wind farm proposal mixed

Mike Desmond

There is a proposal for a major new wind farm complex in three area counties with millions of dollars in revenue and millions paid out to the landowners who lease the property for 117 planned windmills.

A public meeting on the plan was held Wednesday evening at Centerville Town Hall. Turnout was not heavy in a thinly-populated area where Wyoming, Allegany and Cattaraugus Counties come together.

Opponents of the plan say the small turnout reflected developer Invenergy trying to keep quiet on its plans and only inviting supporters to such events. There is opposition with a lawyer, Gary Abraham, who attended the event. There are three other large windmill farms in the area, developed by Invenergy along windy ridge lines. 

"It's laid out across five towns in three counties: Wyoming, Allegany and Cattaraugus counties. Looking at 340 megawatts of American-made energy and with substantial economic benefits to all those towns that are involved. We're looking at about $7 million annually in economic investment to the community," Project Manager Valessa Souder-Klein explained.

Much of that will go to farmers in an annual check for renting land for the towering generators. How much cash remains specifically unclear and mentioned in gross numbers, saying it's $2.4 million a year to landowners.

Jon Clayson, a Centerville Town Board member, said farmers will benefit from the cash payments from Invenergy to farmers for renting some of their land to build the windmills, which could amount to a lot of money.

"This is is a good boost to the agricultural community. As we all know, the agricultural community right now is suffering with all the markets are low and Mother Nature has not been kind in the past year or so. So, a lot of the production has been low as well. This is a good boost for some of the landowners to try to help to keep the small rural farms in play," Clayson said.

"This area has got to have some help and I see nothing else coming. Our prices have been down for four years, 40-60%," said farmer Marv Covert.

Others strongly disagree, citing the effect on the view or the noise or the claimed low rumble or that they don't generate enough energy to make up for the energy which goes into making and installing the towers. Dennis Galluzzo is a pharmacist who sits on the Erie County Board of Health who plans to retire to Rushford.

"I put in hundreds of thousands of dollars into the property and I started building in late 2014. Nobody ever told me they were putting wind turbines in. If I would have known that they were going to put two turbines within 1,200 feet of my front door, I would never, ever built there, at all," Galluzzo said.

Denise Willard also opposes the windmills, saying she wants to live in the quiet countryside.

"I like the peace and the quiet. I have horses. I have a goat. We were looking at the sound levels over here. The Department of Environmental Conservation says that anything above 30 decibels is intolerable. There's people over here that are going to be living with 40-45-to 50 decibels," Willard said.

Invenergy wants to open late next year. No overall cost is available.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.