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Apex seeks second Orleans County wind power project

BARRE – A Virginia company whose first proposed local wind power project has sparked massive controversy is planning a second project a few miles away.

Apex Clean Energy announced this week it wants to build a 200-megawatt wind project in the Town of Barre, in south-central Orleans County, south of Albion.

Heritage Wind, as the company is calling the project, would have the same power generation capacity as Lighthouse Wind, the project planned for Yates, in the northwest corner of Orleans and the adjoining Town of Somerset in Niagara County.

Barre Supervisor Mark L. Chamberlain said he had no inkling of the project until receiving a letter from Apex early this week. Apex issued a news release late Wednesday.

“They told us nothing. The extent of the letter was, they would like to meet with us to discuss it,” Chamberlain said.

The supervisor said that so far as he knows, no landowners in Barre have leased land to Apex, a statement confirmed by Cat Mosley, Apex public affairs manager.

“We have started simultaneous outreach to town officials, landowners, and various stakeholders,” Mosley said. She said Heritage would not replace Lighthouse, to which the company is still committed.

She said Barre was chosen because “it has a verified wind resource, existing high-voltage power lines, expansive private farmland and proximity to state highways.”

The town’s population is about 2,200, and Chamberlain said it has the highest elevation in Orleans County.

Chamberlain, in his 17th year as supervisor, said a Spanish company sought to build a wind power project in Barre about a decade ago, but backed off because its project couldn’t comply with the setbacks needed to avoid conflict with a private airfield on Pine Hill Road in the western part of the town.

Chamberlain said public reaction to that project was “mixed.” Since then, state law has changed, with Article 10 of the Public Service Law placing the decision-making authority for wind projects in the hands of a siting board controlled by state officials instead of local government.

“I want to see what’s being proposed and how it stacks up with the regulations we have. I also want to see how Article 10 from the state impacts on it,” Chamberlain said.

Mosley said it’s too soon to say how many turbines would be sought or how tall they would be. “We are seeking input from the local stakeholders in order to determine the type of project that would work best in Barre. We are just starting conversations and want to develop a unique plan with community leaders and community members,” Mosley said.

“This is an opportunity for the region to come together in economic development while supporting and enhancing the area’s agricultural roots,” Mosley added. “We want to explore the feasibility and gain knowledge to make this a community project – something residents can be proud of that benefits community services with tax revenue, as well as the agricultural heritage of the area.”

Chamberlain said, “We’re highly agricultural here. We don’t have any manufacturing or business to speak of.”