SCHODACK – The Hannaford Bros. distribution center on Route 9 may soon be powered by wind.
James Baisley, facility manager for Hannaford, spoke to the town Planning Board earlier this month, seeking permission to erect a temporary tower to measure wind at the site.
“Our ultimate goal would be to use a wind turbine to create wind power,” said Baisley. “We’ve spoken with some consultants who feel we have a 50/50 chance based on the wind climate today.”
But since building a wind turbine costs millions of dollars, Baisley said, testing needs to be done first.
He proposes a 197-foot test tower with guide wire cables on vacant land Hannaford owns near the B-1 Thruway exit. “I believe it meets the setback limits, but if it needs more, we have enough property to do so.”
Baisley said that the tower will come down after a year of testing.
“We will have collected the data we need and whether it’s a go or not, the test tower will come down. If the data indicates we have a chance, we’ll be back here to discuss the turbine.”
Planning Board member Denise Mayrer told Baisley there are companies in the area that sell the data he is seeking. “I know Schodack has been studied before, in regards to wind velocities and funnels,” she said.
Baisley said Hannaford will look at that information, but also wants data related to the specific wind patterns on its land.
“Wind can change based on the terrain, and there is a hill and trees on this property. We want to know where the wind is coming from and how it is funneled. Disturbed air is a problem,” said Baisley.
“Other places that use wind power, such as Jiminy Peak and General Electric, all recommend that testing be done on the property where the turbines are proposed.”
Board member Jeff Haber asked about the noise associated with wind turbines and was told they are very quiet.
“If you were to stand underneath one, you would hear a whooshing sound, but 100 to 200 feet away, you’d hear nothing,” said Baisley.
Planner Sylvester Kedzierski wondered how big a wind turbine facility would be, but Baisley said the company won’t know the answer to that question until tests are completed.
“Wind turbines come in all different sizes. It depends on the wind.”
Baisley said people are concerned about the environment, but that wind-powered turbines really have no impact.
“They are a great energy source and there is no associated pollution. If all went well, we could actually operate off the grid.”
Planning Board member Wayne Johnson asked how high the test tower would be in comparison to cell towers in the area and also about the height of permanent towers. Baisley wasn’t sure of the answer to Johnson’s first question, saying he doesn’t know how tall the cell towers are.
“If the test tower were higher, it wouldn’t be by much,” he said.
As for the permanent towers, Baisley said he wasn’t sure if they would be as high as 197 feet.
“Again, it probably depends on the type of wind generated. The blades, however, will make any tower taller, he said, noting that the wind turbines at Jiminy Peak in nearby Hancock, Mass. are 250 feet tall.
Haber told Baisley that even if the board approves the test tower, it does not mean it will okay permanent towers.
Baisley asked for the Planning Board’s approval so Hannaford can erect the tower this fall.
Planning Board Chairman Peter Goold said Hannaford will need a variance and suggested Baisley work with Planning Director Nadine Fuda, who was not at the meeting.
Planning Board Attorney Timothy Nugent said the first step is for Baisley to request a building permit.
“That will be turned down, because the tower exceeds the height outlined in the town code,” he said.
Town code states that; “no windmill, including blades, shall extend more than 50 feet above the average ground level of the permanent structure.” The code also states that no windmill shall be erected “in any location where its overall height, including blades, is greater than the distance from its base to any property line.”
Wind generators may be located in any district provided town code standards and regulations are observed.
In this case, the applicant has to file an application for a variance and request a recommendation from the Planning Board to the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Board member Paul Puccio asked whether the Planning Board can give a conditional positive recommendation to the ZBA instead of
Hannaford’s having to come before planners a second time.
“In the past, we haven’t short-circuited the procedure in our code,” said Goold. “This has to be done legally.”
Nugent said the board has in the past given pre-application recommendations, but he would feel more comfortable if the applicant followed the procedure outlined in the Town Code.
He did say the applicant does not have to appear in person at a meeting in order for the board to make their recommendation to the ZBA.
By: Kristin Shaw, Special to The Record
13 August 2007