LOWVILLE — The Number Three Wind Farm project submitted by parent company Invenergy will have to wait longer than anticipated to complete the Article 10 approval process to have a final answer on its proposed 31 turbines in the towns of Lowville and Harrisburg.
On July 30, siting board Chairman John B. Rhodes sent a letter to Invenergy’s Director of Business Development Eric Miller saying because of the timing of significant changes made to the original project and the timing of changed back-up documents due to the project revisions, the 12-month period set in the Article 10 process for a final decision has been extended by 45 days to Nov. 12.
“The Jan. 25, 2019 amendment [to the original application],” Mr. Rhodes’ letter said, “included meaningful changes in the layout of the proposed facility, including a substantial change in the location of a portion of the facility that resulted in three wind turbines shifting locations more than 500 feet.”
The most significant changes in the amendment involved decreasing the number of turbines from 43 to 31 on 39 possible sites and shifting the locations of all but 11 turbines, three of which were moved more than 500 feet.
“The proposed changes were not sufficiently detailed and ultimately required numerous changes to the application… as a result of the changed layout,” Mr. Rhodes’ letter said, “The amendments here are significant enough to constitute revisions.”
Mr. Rhodes noted that the amendment was filed two weeks before direct testimony was to be given by intervenors and other involved parties on the record about the project’s implementation and impact for consideration by the siting board.
Intervenors are groups that are not directly involved in the project but have signed up to be a part of the discussion, like municipalities and community interest groups. They are provided with funds to use for legal and specialist fees to aid them through the complicated process and make their points clear on the record.
The letter from Mr. Rhodes also required Invenergy to provide an additional $75,000 in intervenor funding, which the company has since done “under protest” on the Aug. 6 deadline.
In its motion asking the siting board to reconsider the extension, Number Three responded, “The Jan. 25, 2019, updated layout is the only layout change NTW made to the project.”
Changes and updates to support materials including maps, studies and assessments on many impacts from the new locations and larger turbines outlined in the Jan. 25 application amendment were filed on nine different dates between Jan. 29 and July 9. The company said the supplements, however, weren’t changes but updates to existing documents based on the changes.
The wind company’s motion also held concerns about the precedent the extension would set for future Article 10 proceedings.
“The letter sends a devastating signal by determining that a single update to a proposed layout… risks being found to be a ‘revision,’” the motion said, adding later in the motion, “the briefs were completed more than six weeks ago and there is no need for a 45-day extension, which seems more punitive than practical.”
At the core of the motion, Number Three maintained the layout changes were in the scope of the original application and didn’t create different negative impacts than those originally outlined claiming there had been positive impacts from the changed turbine footprint.
This is not the first time issues have been raised due to the January project changes.
On Feb. 6, the assistant counsel for the state Department of Public Service, Heather Behnke, filed a letter listing the “deficiencies” in Number Three’s application update highlighting that it was filed very close to the date for direct testimony.
The Department of Environmental Conservation and intervenor Tug Hill Alliance for Rural Preservation each requested an extension of six months to the one-year time frame on the same day as Ms. Behnke’s letter, as well as a “stay” on the Feb. 15 date for direct testimony.
The DEC also asked for a “date-certain” when the company would have to provide all supplemental information while THARP requested an additional $75,000.
Despite these early requests, Project Manager Marguerite Wells said they didn’t see this decision coming at this stage of the process.
“We were surprised and we don’t know what impact this will have, but we are still committed to this project. We have a lot invested over the past four years,” she said.