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Survey shows strong opposition in Somerset for wind project

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 June 2015 at 12:00 am

SOMERSET A survey of residents in the Town of Somerset shows strong opposition for the proposed wind project by Apex Clean Energy, including if the company downsized the turbines from about 600 feet in height to less than 495 feet.

Somerset town officials announced the survey results last week. The town mailed about 1,100 surveys and 644, or nearly 60 percent were returned. To see the survey results, click here.

Apex has proposed a project with 60 to 68 wind turbines in Somerset and Yates. The turbines would peak at about 570 feet in height to the top of the turbine blade when it’s straight up from the tower’s base.

The Somerset survey shows 61 percent “strongly oppose” the project while 17 percent “strongly support” it. Another 6 percent said they “moderately oppose” it while 12 percent “moderately support” the project.

Even if the turbines “were set back far and away from residences and lot lines of non-participating landowners,” 55 percent said they still “strongly oppose” the project, while 23 percent strongly support it.

If the turbines and the blades were reduced to less tan 495 feet in height, 56 percent in Somerset said they still strongly oppose the project, while 17 percent said they would strongly support it.

Apex said the project would bring significant revenue to reduce taxes in Somerset. Even with that revenue, 49 percent said they still strongly oppose the project while 27 percent said they would strongly support it with “a significant property tax decrease.”

If the project brought significant electricity costs savings to residents, 48 percent of respondents said they would still strongly oppose the project while 27 percent said they would strongly support it.

The survey results prompted Daniel Engert, Somerset town supervisor, to tell reporters he would actively oppose the turbine project in Somerset.

Somerset and Yates don’t have the final say on the project. That rests with a seven-member siting commission that will include two representatives from Somerset-Yates.

Besides the two local representatives on the Siting Committee, the seven-member group is to be chaired by the state Department of Public Service and will include the leaders of four other state departments: Department of Environmental Conservation, NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority), Empire State Development and the Department of Health.

Officials from the Town of Yates are considering a town-wide survey, said Town Supervisor John Belson. The town did a survey before in 2007. At that time most respondents had a “favorable” view of wind energy. That was before there was a proposal for turbines that are about 100 feet higher than most commercial wind turbines.