MANCHESTER – Planning Commission Chairman Brian Keefe had his hands full keeping the overflow audience from drifting away from the siting issue. Many wanted to discuss questions of aesthetics or the merits of wind power. Keefe explained that there would be at least two or three meetings to discuss those other issues.
Harley Lee, President of Endless Energy made a Power Point presentation that covered most of the site issues. "We will use Vestas V80’s. They are a little smaller than the Vestas V90, and they are available." Lee said the turbines are shipped by boat from Denmark, and then sent by rail to Manchester, and finally trucked to the construction site.
At 390 feet, the Vestas V80 turbines would still be 25 percent taller than the Bennington Monument obelisk. However, only two of the five proposed turbines would be clearly visible from the Manchester or Sunderland roads. The other three would be sited more toward the rear of the mountain.
Hunter Yeager, a member of the Manchester Village Planning Commission, questioned about a further build out: "Will you expand to Big Equinox Mountain?"
"We have not sought to expand beyond the five turbines, nor do we have any plans beyond our original application," responded Harley Lee.
Lee said that Endless Energy currently owns just one turbine located in Maine. It is 100 feet tall. The Equinox project would be the first major project for the company. When asked about the financial strength of the company to handle this estimated $18 Million project Lee told the crowd that the names of the financial backers would be released soon. He did not respond as to whether this information would be available before the Public Service Commission hearing.
Jason Huckabee, engineer for Endless Energy said that to bring the components to the installation site would require the use of special 10 axle double tire trucks that would spread the load over the 160-foot length of a blade. Trucks of this length would not be able to navigate the three switchbacks along Skyline Drive. "One of the switchbacks has an extended run out area, and we would build run outs on the other two," he said. Each run out would be 40 feet wide and 200 feet long.
The current run out serves as a parking area offering scenic views as well as being a safety spot in case of brake problems. Commissioner John Clark asked if the two new run outs would be restored to current vegetation after the installations were completed. Harley Lee said that could be done if the town desired.
Huckabee said the installation would use 4.2 of the existing 5.2 miles of roads. In addition, the ridge road would be lengthened 700 feet, and widened from its current 24 foot width to 40 feet. Commissioner William Drunsic asked for details of the new road creation. "Will you be cutting into the mountain, or just using fill?" Will there be permanent scars along the top of the mountain?"
Huckabee said that only fill would be used, and the ridge road would be used over the life of the project for maintenance access. A view of the road in the Power Point presentation shows it to be little more than a jeep trail now.
Each turbine will have a cylindrical base that starts 30 feet underground and rises 256 feet. The base is 18 feet in diameter at the bottom and tapers to about eight feet at the top. The 40-ton nacelle, or hub, is bolted to the top of the base. Access to the nacelle can be gained from inside of the base via steps.
The nacelle and blades are lifted into place with the use of a large self-propelled crane. The crane will travel from one site to the next until all five turbines are erected. A firm base or pad 50′ by 60′ will be created for the crane to sit on at each turbine site. These bases will be built using suitable fill material to result in a stable platform for the crane.
Harley Lee said there could be some blasting used to excavate the 30-foot deep hole to set the bases.
Vestas will supervise the construction, and handle the first five years of maintenance according to Lee.
Tom Mills, Vestas representative told the crowd that Vestas has built turbines all over the world.
"There are hundreds in Spain and France alone," said Mills.
The turbines will rotate between 9 and 19 times per minute, and will generate 9 megawatts of power. Electricity will be fed down the mountain on the existing route, using some of the infrastructure in place from the last wind farm. Lee said some of the poles will be replaced with taller power poles. He also said a second cross bar would be added.
"I think the new poles with two cross arms and 5-7 feet higher will be substantially bigger," said Drunsic.
At the bottom of the mountain, the power wires will be buried. After crossing Route 7A the underground wires will travel along Hill Farm Road, and cross Sunderland Hill Road through Ann Montgomery’s property to North Road, and will connect to the existing CVPS high tension power lines. There will be a small substation built in the CVPS right-of-way.
Tom Harmon asked about possible icing on the blades.
"General Electric recommends a 1,000 clearance from the base during icing conditions," said Harmon.
Icing ‘no concern’
Howard O’Donovan asked if that would mean closing Skyline Drive. Bob Stannard said that Skyline Drive is closed throughout the winter so icing would not be a concern to traffic. O’Donovan questioned whether there might be hikers along the ridge even during a sleet storm.
Huckabee said the total construction time would be two-to-three months long. He said it would all happen in one construction season. The construction phase includes all road modifications as well as each turbine pad creation and turbine erection.
Keefe reminded the audience that there would be a series of additional meetings to cover such items as ecology, viability of wind power, aesthetics, economic impacts on the area, and Endless Energy’s bona fides.
"We will announce the time and location of each meeting as soon as it is known," said Keefe.