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Windmills to be given more study

The Somerset Town Board gave itself six more months to establish guidelines on constructing windmills.

After a public hearing Tuesday, the board extended the moratorium, enacted last March, and also voted to establish the Wind Energy Conversion Systems Committee to investigate the issue.

The Town Board directed the 18-member panel to come up with a recommendation for the town's Planning Board.

The Town Board has until Aug. 15 to come up with regulations for constructing Niagara County's first windmills.

James C. Hoffman, a member of the Planning Board, said the Town Board needed to extend the moratorium because the committee needs to look into the matter.

Currently, there are no proposals to build windmills, although Kevin R. Pierce, president of AES Somerset, said his company is "very much in the conceptual stage" of a plan.

The AES plant burns coal to produce electricity and is looking at windmills to diversify its operation. Two towers have been built on the plant grounds to gather data, such as wind speed and direction.

Hoffman said it is important to differentiate between private wind turbines and commercial wind turbine farms. In the much larger turbine farms, Hoffman said, the turbines can have a maximum height of 600 feet and produce up to six megawatts of power.

The Town Board needs to consider the impact to the tax base, because currently, wind turbines are tax-exempt, Hoffman said. In addition, turbine farms are large and side setbacks need to be established.

Town representatives also need to address any noise impacts from the turbines, Hoffman said. Councilwoman April C. Gow said the nearest windmill site is Maple Ridge Wind Farm, about 75 miles northeast of Syracuse.

Supervisor John Sweeney Jr. said the new committee lets the public know the Town Board is serious about the project.

"We have an appreciation for the concept of renewable energy and will strive to make the right decision," he said.

Sweeney said Town Board members have been collecting information on windmills, and need more. Both he and Gow are members of the group.


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