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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, November 27, 2008

Berne’s wind moratorium in the works

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — In the wake of an attempt by Shell WindEnergy to build a 100-megawatt, commercial wind farm in the Hilltowns, the town board agreed at its Nov. 19 meeting to have Town Attorney William Conboy draft a moratorium that will temporarily prohibit all wind projects in Berne.

Questions of when exactly the moratorium will go into effect and how long it will last remain unanswered.

“Basically, the board wants the attorney to draft a moratorium that will address small and large wind,” Supervisor Kevin Crosier said.

“Small wind will be looked at first,” he said, referring to smaller-scale windmills that landowners put up to power their own homes. Berne already has at least two.

“Large industrial turbines and community wind would become part of the town’s comprehensive plan, and the planning board would draft up a big wind ordinance.”

The board has defined “industrial turbines” as those constructed by larger corporations like Shell, and “community wind” as locally owned projects like Helderberg Community Energy that look to benefit the town entirely.

Crosier said that a moratorium is important because it gives community members more time to discuss their feelings on the placement of large structures, like windmills, where it might affect their view of the Helderbergs, and the peace and quiet that residents come to love.

Recent Berne Town Board meetings have been packed as residents reported on Internet research they had done on the pros and cons of wind energy.

“It’s not that people are opposed to wind energy,” Crosier said. “What people are worried about is what it will do to their community, and the views that they’ve cherished forever. There are appropriate places for a 400-foot turbine to be placed, and that might not be on a scenic mountaintop.”

The mountains, Crosier said, define what it is to live in Berne. “I don’t think people want the mountains destroyed so that some multinational corporation can profit,” he said.

Shell had planned to build 50 windmills on the crest of the Helderbergs, in parts of New Scotland, Rensselaerville, and Berne. This included, according to a map that Shell representatives showed landowners, part of the Partridge Run Wildlife Management Area. The company eventually pulled its plans due to a lack of interest from landowners.

Now, Rhizome Integrated Energy, based out of New York City, is looking at the Hilltowns for a 25-megawatt wind project.

At the town’s regular December meeting, the board will enact the moratorium, and schedule a public hearing on the moratorium, Crosier said.

“After the public hearing, and at the next board meeting, we’ll vote to set the moratorium,” he said. “So, probably January.”

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