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Denmark projects already benefiting from proposed wind farm

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COPENHAGEN — While the Copenhagen Wind Farm is still in the planning stages, some students and organizations in the town of Denmark already are benefitting from the project.

WinDenmark, using funds provided by Brooklyn wind developer OwnEnergy, has handed out several thousand dollars over the past year and is looking for both new projects to fund and additional members to decide where the money goes.

“We’re very open to ideas and projects that could receive funding,” OwnEnergy local partner Jerry B. Wichelns said.

The company is working to develop a $198.5 million wind project that would include 49 turbines, generating 79.2 megawatts, in the town of Denmark, just north of the 195-turbine Maple Ridge Wind Farm.

It also would feature a 115-kilovolt overhead power line running about 9 miles through the towns of Champion, Rutland and Watertown to connect the wind farm to a National Grid substation near Burrville.

While some representatives of OwnEnergy and local taxing jurisdictions attend meetings of WinDenmark, typically held quarterly or on an as-needed basis, only committee members with no financial ties to the proposed wind farm are allowed to vote on what projects to fund.

“It’s a group of citizens from the town of Denmark formed to distribute money given to the community by OwnEnergy,” WinDenmark treasurer Judy K. Bartlett said. “Nobody who stands to profit from towers can serve on it.”

“These are people who are not engaged in the project,” Mr. Wichelns said.

The group, which has received $5,000 per year in funding from OwnEnergy over the past couple of years, recently gave $500 to the Copenhagen Food Pantry at St. Mary’s Church and $300 to the Copenhagen Fire Department Auxiliary to help offset costs for its annual Christmas parade and other community functions, including an Angel Tree program. OwnEnergy also gave matching grants to those two organizations.

WinDenmark also previously had handed out two scholarships to Copenhagen Central School students, one for $2,000 and the other for $1,000.

The group’s funds are managed by the Northern New York Community Foundation.

“We have an application form for organizations requesting money,” WinDenmark President John G. McGraw said.

All projects funded are to benefit town of Denmark residents in some manner, but the group does not fund items already being covered by tax dollars.

The WinDenmark committee has seven voting members: Mr. McGraw, secretary Sandy Jones, Mrs. Bartlett and her husband, Michael, Samuel Lundy, Matt Cooper and Rob Harding.

Since all seven live in the vicinity of Copenhagen, WinDenmark officials said they would like to add at least a couple of more members, preferably from the Castorland, Denmark or Deer River sections of the town.

Anyone who would like to be on the committee or has an idea for a project to be funded can speak directly to a committee member or send a letter to WinDenmark, P.O. Box 186, Copenhagen N.Y. 13626.

Since the proposed wind farm would have to sell any electricity produced directly into the grid, OwnEnergy wanted to do something extra — aside from payments-in-lieu-of-taxes and landowner payments — to benefit the Denmark community, in general, Mr. Wichelns said.

Annual payments to WinDenmark are expected to get larger once the wind farm is operational, but those figures have yet to be determined and would depend, in part, on energy market conditions, he said.

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