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Tim Helfter, Hopkinton, (center) has strong objections to the wind power project.
Tim Helfter, Hopkinton, (center) has strong objections to the wind power project.

Critical crowd greets wind company in Parishville

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A skeptical public greeted wind power representatives Saturday in St. Lawrence County. Iberdrola Renewables says it's in "the earliest stages" of developing an industrial wind farm in the towns of Parishville and neighboring Hopkinton. As David Sommerstein reports, this weekend's open house puts the communities on a familiar - and contentious - path.

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Iberdrola's Jenny Burke (center) answers questions.

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David Sommerstein
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The event was billed as a meet-and-greet.  But it turned into a Q&A, with concerned residents grilling two Iberdrola representatives.  People asked about the wind turbines’ efficiency, about the capacity of the 60 year-old old power line to send the electricity to the grid.  They asked how much in taxes Iberdrola would pay.

Tim Helfter of Hopkinton doubted it would be worth it.

And does the tax revenue outweigh having to see those every day and having the lights and the noise and ruining what we have?  What benefit are the majority of the town people going to get out of it?

Rex Sheldon of Parishville said the developer would get tax money in the form of federal incentives for green power development.

Those benefits are on the backs of the taxpayers, which is us, which is funding this project.  Would you still go through with this project if you didn’t receive the tax shelter.

Iberdrola’s Jenny Burke said there are still plenty of unknowns, including whether those tax incentives will even exist several years from now when the project would get off the ground.

She said a test, or met, tower was erected less than a year ago.  Iberdrola needs more data to know if a wind farm even makes sense here.

Y’know we may find that, come next November, that the met towers have come in and the wind resource is not here.  We’d find it wasn’t viable.  But we believe it’s at least viable enough of an area to study.

Viable enough that Iberdrola’s already signed contracts to lease 59 parcels of land from 15 property owners.  Burke said those deals pay 8 to 10,000 dollars per turbine per year.

There were also wind farm supporters.  Robert White of Parishville said it would help the tax base and provide clean energy.  His wife, Ann, said she was pleased with the wind turbines she’s seen in Franklin County.

I like what I see when I drive through Chateaugay.  That doesn’t offend me.  We see a lot of ugly stuff  in the North Country.  You might see beauty and I hope we do.

After the meeting, an anti-wind activist hauled in an armful of yellow “No Wind” lawn signs…a counter to the “Yes Wind” lawn signs and kids coloring books Iberdrola was handing out.

The supporters gravitated to other pro-wind folks.  The wind critics huddled in their own group.

Like Cape Vincent, Clayton, Hammond, and Burke before them, Parishville and Hopkinton seemed to be heading down a long, complicated – and divisive – debate over wind power.

For North Country Public Radio, I’m David Sommerstein in Parishville.

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