RICHLAND — A newly passed law restricts and regulates future wind energy projects inside the town of Richland, a move lauded by officials and activists as one of the strongest policies in New York.
The Richland Town Board in November approved the measure, which places restrictions on wind turbine farms in the town based on factors including setback from properties, noise production, property value guarantees, environmental tests and decommissioning terms.
The law, which aims to protect residents from the potential harms of wind energy, was the product of several local officials’ work over the past year.
Town Supervisor Dan Krupke called the plan “probably the best written” wind ordinance in the area and noted other towns may want to look at the language for potential adoption in the future.
Adding he doesn’t “think our community would be a good location” for a large wind farm, Krupke said he wouldn’t want wind energy to influence attractions such as Lake Ontario, boating and fishing along with the residents.
“We want to keep the integrity of our community here,” said Krupke. “A lot of people come here because of the extensive natural resources we have and we don’t want that to change.”
Under the new law, which is already in effect, turbine farms that generate 100 kilowatts or more are required to be at least one mile from residential property. The height cannot exceed more than 500 feet and noise cannot exceed 35 A-weighted decibels for more than five minutes at a time.
Small wind energy facilities that produce less than 100 kilowatts cannot be taller than 75 feet and must be set back from property lines, the law said.
Upstate New York wind energy activist John Droz Jr. — who says “wind energy isn’t clean energy,” — cited a number of studies related to the health impact of wind turbines on the local community.
“There’s an overwhelming body of science when turbines are closer than a mile. There are a lot of adverse side effects,” said Droz, adding that infrasound and energy waves can cause things such as heart arrhythmia.
The law also seeks to hold developers accountable to compensate for decreasing property values of nearby homes, requires proper environmental testing and adequate decommissioning terms.
While there are no wind farms presently or proposed in Richland, Krupke said seeing the unfolding situation in the nearby town of Redfield with the proposed Mad River Wind Farm made it clear something needed to be done. The Avangrid Renewables proposal seeks to build 88 turbines on 20,000 acres in Redfield and the bordering Jefferson County town of Worth.
“It really caught them off guard in the township [of Redfield] and it’s costing them a lot in legal fees,” said Krupke, adding that he doesn’t want a similar tough situation to fall on the shoulders of Richland.
The new terms are potentially so restricting, Krupke couldn’t immediately identify an area where a wind farm would definitely work out and deferred to the town’s attorney.
Krupke did say, however, the town’s goal isn’t to keep out wind energy, as there are some individual wind turbines in the town. In fact, he said, the town has one that helps offset energy costs at a water district pump site.
“We’re not against having [wind turbines], we just want to make sure they’re placed properly,” said Krupke.
Those hoping to put individual wind turbines on their property will not be affected, officials said.
Dawn Holynski, chairperson of the Pulaski and Richland Comprehensive Planning Board, said the last time the town passed wind ordinance law was in 2009 and these updates are fairly expansive in comparison. Scientific studies were relied upon heavily to craft this carefully considered legislation, she said.
“I’m for this wind law,” said Holynski, of Richland. “I was very pleased the town board passed this. They wouldn’t have passed this if they didn’t believe it was important for the health and safety of the residents.”
Droz, a physicist with years of experience following and studying wind energy in Lewis County, went a step further in describing the impactful legislation.
“In my opinion, as a scientist, the little town of Richland here did something no community has ever done,” said Droz, adding that the law is “the best, most protective wind ordinance in the entire state.”