VILLENOVA — In the hills of this city and neighboring parts of Hanover, a major green energy project has turned into an environmental disaster.
Concrete litters parts of the landscape as nearby residents fear creeks and creeks may be contaminated as blasting activities have left a scar for property owners and wildlife.
What was once a calm and serene natural setting has become an assembly line operation due to faulty concrete foundations that were poured and now need to be removed as part of the Ball Hill Wind Farm. The process involves blasting with dynamite and a cavalcade of large trucks carrying dumpsters moving the concrete with the likely destination of the Chautauqua County landfill.
In announcing the development, Northlands Power Inc. officials were not open to those affected or the community at large. Through its Facebook page on April 19, the company revealed that it had agreements with the cities of Hannover and Villenova to do the blasting.
However, none of these permits are documented in Villenova city minutes from January to April of this year and it was not revealed in any of the Hannover meetings the OBSERVER attended.
“The blasting will begin on Thursday, April 21 and will be carried out between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.,” the mid-April Facebook post noted. “We will be sending daily construction updates via email to the community during this time when these blasting activities are occurring.
“If you would like to receive the daily emails, please email Melissa Scozzafava at [email protected] or call her at (518) 281-7084.”
Unfortunately, calls and emails to this address and to Northlands Power by the OBSERVER and the Post-Journal were either ignored or rejected. Based on the Facebook page alone, the company’s engagement with community members appears to be almost non-existent. Only 11 people “As” the page while another 13 “follow” this.
Additionally, the company’s post offering updates is contradicted by some who note that they emailed and received no response, while another complains of not receiving any updates. daily days despite a request.
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Since 2006, the Ball wind farm had been under construction while overseen by former developer, Renewable Energy Systems. The 100 megawatt wind power project was to include 25 turbines and a special use permit from the cities of Hannover and Villenova led to construction starting last June. At that time, the work was expected to be completed by the end of 2022, according to the current site manager Northlands Power, based in Toronto.
Like other renewable efforts that have taken hold in Chautauqua County, this one had its share of advocates and naysayers. The controversy that filled council chambers — and Hamlet United Methodist Church in South Dayton for a hearing — was also tied to the resignation of a city council member.
Another Villenova board member, Nathan Palmer, is named in Ball Hill Energy, LLC’s disclosure list, as having a financial interest in the project through a contract for the sale of welding supplies. His expected salary range is between $5,000 and less than $20,000.
These repeating efforts, which have taken place in all cities and towns, are all similar in appearance. To move a project forward, renewable business leaders engage and engage with elected decision-makers with enthusiasm. They attend almost every meeting armed with a set of facts and figures that benefit their argument. As is the case in Villenova and Hannover, once approved, the representatives are no longer visible. In this case, it has great advantages for a company that fails to return queries.
It also brings frustration to those closest to the rumbles.
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For some who live near the hustle and bustle of construction and blasting, information from Northland has been minimal to none. Although there is sometimes peace, recent blasts often come with little warning. In one case, residents said they heard explosions after 9 p.m. on a weekend.
A nearby resident, who heard from a company representative, was told that 18 turbine bases were to be blasted with 166 sticks of dynamite per base. Due to the proximity of the gas pipes, the remaining bases had to be hammered. Once demolition began, it was hoped that four turbine bases could be built in a week.
In total, the estimated cost of the major reconstruction was to be $15 million.
“They did a concentrated blast (May 16) and I felt like I was in a war zone or going through an earthquake,” said a Hanover resident who declined to be named. “There have been days when there are a lot of dump trucks coming in.”
Emailed photos show a far from natural atmosphere as boulders surround large construction equipment cleaning up leftover concrete. Despite the delay, when the project is completed, the Villenova towers could reach 599 feet tall. For comparison, the 39-story-high Seneca One Tower in Buffalo stands 529 feet.
Northland notes on its website that it has grown from a Canadian developer to a global organization with facilities generating electricity from renewable resources such as wind, solar and natural gas efficiently over its years. 34 years of operation. With more than 2,200 megawatts of net operating capacity, an additional 130 MW under construction and an additional 1,645 MW in advanced development, Northland – although it did not respond to requests for comment – also claims to be “an experienced, competent and responsible power producer.”