Wind energy developers try new approach to get large turbines sited without stringent review

Posted 12 June 2022 at 9:07 pm


There is a new effort by wind developers to propose “community wind” projects. These are projects consisting of one or two industrial wind turbines that would be approximately 640 foot tall and be sited on town or private property. They’re being touted by at least one developer, Borrego, in their information, as “NOT a utility-scale wind farm.”

Is this a new tactic by developers in an effort to get around the issues associated with siting large scale industrial wind projects in New York State? Put one or two up, scatter them around a town and no problems, right?

But while the energy generation is below the threshold for State review of the project, the size of the turbines is industrial. The turbine size of 640 feet was shared by Borrego in a May 3rd presentation in the Town of Shelby.

That is one or two hundred feet taller than the tallest building in Buffalo or Rochester! For turbines this tall, the FAA would require them to be fitted with blinking lights. In the Town of Somerset, we know what something this tall looks like. The stack at the power plant can be seen all the way to the Niagara Escarpment.

How much sound will these turbines emit? Borrego’s website for the proposed project in Shelby states that “these turbines typically produce no more than 50 decibels of sound that will blend into the background noise.” In many rural areas, the ambient noise level is typically closer to 30 decibels. Setbacks from neighboring property lines will be critical to minimize the impact.

Some towns are not welcoming Borrego “community” projects with open arms. In the town of Glen, Borrego withdrew its application in May, after months of review by the town. A project was blocked in Middleburgh, also in May, after “months of debate and public hearings” as people objected to the size, the lights, and the noise of these industrial turbines.

Local laws are important. These projects will not go through the Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES). Your town board will have the ultimate say in what happens. Check with your town to see what ordinances are in place for these types of projects in terms of height of turbines, setbacks and noise levels. And be watchful. The timeline for this project in Shelby began in 2020 but many people are just now aware of it because of the public hearing notice.

There is going to be a public hearing in Shelby on June 14th at 6:15 p.m. The purpose of this hearing is for the public to comment on the “special use permit and site plan applications submitted by Borrego Solar System, Inc. for the installation of two wind turbines on South Gravel Road.” If you live in that area, it is important to attend. Become informed of the details and ask questions.

Pamela Atwater


President of Save Ontario Shores, Inc.