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Wind meeting yields many questions, fewer answers

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HOPKINTON — Don’t expect to see wind turbines popping up around Parishville and Hopkinton in the near future.

The towns held a joint meeting with Iberdrola Renewables Inc. on Monday night to discuss the power company’s interest in creating a wind farm in the area. But about the only thing the power company could say with certainty is that a lot of questions remain.

Iberdrola officials estimated it could take as long as five years before any final decisions are made in the project.

“We are still in the very early stages of this process,” Iberdrola business developer Jenny Burke said. “Just like all of you, we are waiting to find out what the details will be.”

Both towns continue to work feverishly on laws designed to govern possible wind development in the area, the first step in finalizing the details of the plan, Ms. Burke said. Throughout the meeting, residents from both towns bombarded Ms. Burke and her colleagues with questions about the proposed turbines, many of which remained unanswered.

According to Hopkinton Town Supervisor Marvin E. Rust, the power company has proposed a 50-megawatt farm in the town. But where those turbines would be placed, how much money the town would stand to gain and the projected costs to Iberdola all remain unknown.

“We know what we want to do, but I’d be pulling a number out of thin air,” said Mark Epstein, senior counsel for the power company. “It will take time to figure all those things out.”

Iberdrola representatives remain unsure if the towns would even be able to sustain a wind farm. The company placed two test towers in Hopkinton last year, but is still waiting to collect the data to determine whether the region is an ideal location for the turbines. It could be years before residents find out what the company’s decision will be.

“In a perfect world, I would stand here and tell you that in a year we will be back with all the details,” Ms. Burke said. “But we just don’t know.”

Parishville Town Supervisor Jerry G. Moore has said he hopes his town would be ready to vote on a draft of its proposed law later this month, which would be the first of many legal hoops the town would have to navigate before the law would be set in place.

Hopkinton may be even further from completing its law, as Mr. Rust said the town is still “months away” from finalizing a draft of the plan.

But even when the proposed law is passed by the town board, it will have to appear before a number of other boards and committees before it is passed, meaning it could be months before a law is actually in place.

“It is critical in a local law to cover many different aspects in order to protect our taxpayers,” Mr. Rust said. “We need to cover all our bases, no matter how long it takes.”

Officials in both towns were thrown into the middle of a messy debate earlier this year after state lawmakers decided they will have final say when it comes to any energy projects, including the development of wind turbines, which produce 25 or more megawatts of power.

But with the state’s law still in its infancy, many questions remain about what effect it will have on projects such as the one Iberdrola has proposed in Hopkinton.

“We are in the same boat as everyone else,” Mr. Epstein said. “Nobody knows what is going on with this law or how it will roll out.”

Regardless of how the law plays out, he said, town residents will not be forgotten in the process.

“Quite frankly, we’d be idiots if we just went to Albany and said the heck with the towns,” he said. “We need communication and cooperation on a local level to make this work.”

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